Courage and hard work were dominant themes during the three-day Chicago White Sox training camp held at the Fields of Dreams in George Town last weekend. Members of the White Sox organizers put 65 children and teens through drills and practice games in a daily routine much like spring training for Major Leaguers. The Cayman kids were pushed hard as they learned new skills and improved their game, but the experienced and always-positive Chicago coaching staff made sure it was all fun.
‘I’m here to try and learn how I can become a professional player and play with the Chicago White Sox,’ said Alexander Harris, 8. ‘I like this camp because it’s fun.’
‘This really helps you become a better player,’ added Christopher Messer, also 8. ‘And it’s really fun.’
The White Sox coaches impressed observing parents not just with their thorough knowledge of the game but also their consistent positive attitude toward the kids. The camp, hosted by the Cayman Islands Little League Association, was the first exposure to organized baseball for many of the younger children but the coaches were able to successfully run them through several complicated drills over the three days-and keep them smiling.
‘We try to reach as many kids as we can,’ said Pat Perry, a former pitcher in the Major Leagues and a coach at the camp. ‘It’s all about growth. If you can put a kid in a better position mentally and physically there is a better chance that his growth will accelerate and he will start to understand and play the game better. There are kids here with some real good athletic ability.’
Four local players so impressed the White Sox staff that they were selected to compete in a skills contest against American Little Leaguers in Chicago later this year. The boys are: Chris Messer, Shawn Larson, Tyler Lee, and Marco Rankin.
One of the highlights of the camp was the presence of Don Cooper, head pitching coach for the White Sox. Cooper has been to the summit of pro baseball, having been a part of Chicago’s 2005 World Series winners.
‘It’s easy to find the motivation to do a camp like this,’ said Cooper. ‘My whole life has been nothing but baseball. I was lucky enough to have been a Major League player. I’m lucky enough to be a Major League coach and I’m fortunate enough to have won a World Series. But I have always worked with kids. I get as much enjoyment working with kids like you have here in the Cayman Islands as I do working with the best players in the Major Leagues. For me, it’s a sense of giving back. I want kids to learn the game and have fun. Maybe they can be a part of a team and play well. Maybe they can play in college. And maybe, if everything works out just right, they can make it to the big leagues. I truly get a lot of satisfaction from coaching kids.
‘The kids in Cayman have a lot of potential, they just haven’t had as much exposure to the game as kids in the U. S.have. I’m proud to be here and be able to help these good children learn the game. I will come here two or three times a year if they want me.’
Caren Wight and Stuart Knox were key organizers of the 2007 White Sox Camp. Cayman Islands Little League is set to launch a new season next month.