The Chicago White Sox left their freezing city for the warm climes of Grand Cayman and as the coaches defrosted they were able to pass on tips to Little Leaguers over the Heroes weekend.
The annual three-day camp was running for a fifth year and has now become a permanent fixture for the Major League outfit.
Tarvis Kerber is director of their north-west academy. He’s been with the White Sox eight years having played professionally as a pitcher for five years.
Kerber has attended all five camps here and been here a couple of other times on other camps. “I love it here. The main thing is the love the kids have for baseball,” said Kerber. “Knowing that down here baseball isn’t a huge sport like soccer and rugby is, it’s still amazing to see the passion they have for baseball.
“Everytime we come here, it’s a joy. It’s nice too to see the kids growing up, getting taller, like Deaquan Bennett who is a big kid now and a really good athlete. When we first came here it was to introduce kids to the sport and get them interested enough to get into college and maybe play professionally.
“Ideally, it would be perfect for us to get a Caymanian to play in the major leagues. But another good aspect of working hard in softball and baseball is teaching you life’s lesson on how hard you have to work when you actually go out and get a get job.
“Our ultimate goal is to help these kids become better people and give them an opportunity to play and do something that we all grew up loving.“
Kerber is thankful of getting away from the Chicago cold. “The fact that is was minus-10 when we left and got bumped off our first flight because the plane was too cold to fly, goes to show how appreciative we are of coming down here to 80-degree weather.
“Three years ago I got my own rental car and started exploring the island. I enjoyed seeing more of the local life and not just the tourist parts. I love the food. Huge fan of jerk chicken which I can’t get in the States. Meeting some of the people, like Karen White who I’ve know for five years and watching her son grow up to play college baseball in Illinois, is great.”
Kerber is so in love with Cayman that he got married here two years ago.
The kids at one point got to mob Rob ‘Captain K’ Kuchaiski, which was great fun for them but poor Captain K got crushed yet still came out smiling.
Sam Zagorac is a professional hitting instructor at the academy. “I think this is beautiful for me right here. Everyone’s complaining it’s too hot but it doesn’t get hot enough for me.”
He has been working in baseball camps for about 10 years and over that time he’s seen thousands of kids. “The Cayman Little League Association are very excited about having us down here and we love that. We spend as much time with these kids as they want and we love to give them some professional help and coaching to get them to enjoy and love the game and grow up to play the game.
“Ideally, we’d like to see baseball become a year round sport down here. The weather and climate is adaptable to that whereas in Chicago you’re only outdoors a couple of months a year and the rest of the time you’re indoors.
Footballer Romeo Thomas took his son Romeo Junior, seven, to the White Sox camp. He is in his third year in the Little League. Like dad, Junior is a footballer too. Romeo Junior plays for Scholars International but so far softball is more appealing than football.
This was Junior’s first camp and he loved it. By the end of the camp he was batting much better and improved his pitching and running.