MANCHESTER — It isn't often one has the opportunity to be a kid all over again, even if it's only for one morning.
So when the idea to participate in a baseball camp came to mind, I was more than willing to sneak outof the office one sunny morning this week and spend some time learning the basics of America's favorite pastime.
After dusting off my glove, I headed up to Christmas Tree Park here to visit North Carroll baseball coach Craig Walker's Second AnnualFundamental Baseball Camp.
It had been 15 years since I seriouslyplayed the game I once enjoyed with much the same enthusiasm as the 28 youngsters at the camp this week. Fortunately, I've since investedin a new glove.
I was immediately initiated with a white T-shirt that read "FUNDAMENTAL BASEBALL CAMP 1991" in North Carroll Panther red. The camp was just that -- informative and instructive on important facets of baseball a lot of youngsters never learn correctly.
"If the kids who are participating pick up one fundamental skill each day that they can use and enjoy in their playing days, it is rewardingto me," said Walker, who will be in his fourth season as coach of North Carroll next spring.
I asked Walker what was on the agenda andhe said we would be working on throwing, bunting and rundowns duringthe three-hour session.
After calisthenics and a few sit-ups and push-ups, we got right into the throwing exercise, which emphasized the "crow hop" -- the first step, or hop, you take after fielding a ball in the outfield
that gives you the added momentum to throw the ball back to the infield.
The drill we used to employ the "crow hop" was called "rumple the towel" with the object being catching a flyor picking up a grounder from the outfield and throwing the ball in the direction of a towel that was placed on the fence.
I wisely opted to take my turn after the youngsters were sent on a water break. After firing a respectable toss in the vicinity of the towel, photographer George Holsey said, "I wouldn't think about quitting the day job just yet."
With the first portion of the camp behind us, it was clear Walker had a great group of kids who showed some promise.
"Camp is going pretty good," said Blake Ulam, an 11-year-old Sykesvilleresident, prior to his turn at bat.
"I've been playing since T-ball and it's good to refresh things because a lot of times I don't do things correct in games."
Every skill taught was previewed by a talk from Walker. Prior to the bunting drill, he talked about how power-hitting outfielder Pete Incaviglia helped the Detroit Tigers beat the Texas Rangers the previous night by sacrifice bunting a teammate tosecond.
"What's always facing the pitcher when you square up to bunt?" he asked the group.
"Your bellybutton and your zipper, if you have one," the group replied.
The bunting display was quite impressive, there was even a Jon Miller play-by-play impersonator in 8-year-old Tom Quinn of Reisterstown.
After a successful bunt down thefirst base line from a participant, Quinn shouted, "And he lays downa bunt that gets by (Mark) Williamson and the Indians win!"
Next year, Walker plans to expand the camp to two weeks and also provide acamp for 13- to 16-year-olds. He also has discussed an idea with Westminster High baseball coach Carl Rihard to provide a camp for coaches.
"One way to help the kids is to go to the coaches and give themideas of different drills to maximize time spent with the kids. I'm sure there are also plenty of coaches out there now who could give ussome new ideas as well," Walker said.