Little league baseball in the
Cayman Islands got a big boost this week with the presence of coaches affliated
with Major League Baseball club the Chicago White Sox.
Starting from Monday the Field of
Dreams facility in George Town saw five coaches from the BullSox Training
Academy. All boast a major background in the sport in Mike Huff (a former pro
player from 1989 to 1996), Dan Schaffer (a top academy trainer), Pete Caliendo
(a US youth coach who has been to some 30 countries), Marty Kobernus (the lead
pitching instructor) and Justin Stone (general manager for baseball operations
at the academy and a touted hitting instructor).
The BullSox institution is a youth
sports development outfit that focuses on nurturing basketball and baseball
talents. It is owned by Jerry Reinsdorf, the same man that owns the White Sox
and NBA team the Chicago Bulls.
Some 70 odd kids came to the field
to receive instruction from the group everyday through to Friday. The
youngsters, who ranged from seven to 18 years of age, took part in morning
drills that focused on fundamentals and an evening session that featured
exhibition matches. Among the local kids in attendance was rising baseball star
Justin Derrick, who excelled at the last BullSox Skills Challenge for all of
its youth programs at the home of the White Sox, US Cellular Field in Chicago.
A number of players from little
league travel teams were also taking part. Among them were Sean McField and
David Lee, who were part of the Cayman team that went to Puerto Rico for the
2010 Caribbean qualifers for the Little League World Series. In addition
members of a select U17 squad that went to Miami recently under Jon DaCosta
were present in Adam Chisholm, Tyler Lee and Lance Morris.
Vice President of the Cayman
Islands Little League Tim Derrick was at the field this week observing the
coaching sessions. The Calgary native, whose son Justin took part, states the
presence of the BullSox coaches is welcome.
“The kids did really well,” Derrick
said. “The coaches did well to keep them interested and engaged considering at
their age they have about a six-minute attention span. I have nothing but
praise for the coaches. They’re good at their jobs and based on the drills they
did with the kids they clearly know what they’re doing. I’m happy to see them
“This camp is actually an expansion
from the weekend camp we usually hold in January. We in the association wanted
to bring these guys here longer while reaching more kids and keeping the price
down. Like the other association members I want to get as many kids as possible
playing softball and hosting this camp now, during the school break for most of
these kids, will help.”
One of the more notable changes in
the line-up of coaches that came to Cayman was the absence of Don Cooper.
Cooper, the White Sox pitching coach who has developed talents like Mark
Buehrle, came here two years ago when the camp was in its infancy and could not
come this time due to conflicting obligations in the States.
Nevertheless Derrick is quick to
state that the coaches that did come had an equally large wealth of knowledge
as Cooper, which can only benefit the level of youth baseball in Cayman.
“We have knowledgeable people here
like Jim Parham (the local little league President) and Robbie Cribb. We can
all benefit from those coaches and take baseball in Cayman to the next level.
I’ve helped on 20 odd teams here in Cayman, including little league clubs and a
co-ed squad. Watching the progress of the players is priceless and the look on
their faces makes the fact that I’m at the field almost everyday all of the
time worth it for me.
“Seeing the kids develop in
particular is amazing and it’s the best feeling in the world. Baseball is such
a great game because it teaches life skills like team-work along with providing
physical benefits like conditioning.”