Three-day camp gives kids chance to learn fundamentals from variety of coaches
Michael Place may never forget his 12th birthday.
The Denver boy is celebrating it today, playing catch with Colorado Rockies third baseman Jordan Pacheco at the Western Slope Baseball Camp in the Maverick Pavilion on the campus of Colorado Mesa University. The Grand Junction Rockies camp began Friday and continues through Sunday.
“Yeah!” Place said with a big grin. “It is really good. I first heard about it from my friend Tim Ray, the general manager of the Grand Junction Rockies. It’s nice to come out here. I really enjoy the major leaguers and the coaches. It is really fun.”
The Places met Tim Ray a couple of years ago when the team was in Casper, Wyo. They were in town looking for a baseball cap for Michael’s grandfather. They went to the ballpark facility and bumped into Ray, who gave them a tour of the ballpark and a cap. The family was invited to a game and remained in touch with Ray.
Place is one of an estimated 100 children, ages 9 and up, participating in the camp with instruction from several members of the Colorado Rockies instructional staff with the aid of Pacheco.
“It’s nice for these kids,” Pacheco said. “Right now, it’s fun for these guys. We want to try to teach everything we can, but we want to keep it fun for them. That’s what this camp is all about. That’s what this game is all about.”
Pacheco, 26, is a native of Albuquerque, N.M., and was drafted by the Rockies in 2007. He was called up in 2011 and has played third base, first base and catcher for the Rockies.
“We always try to bring a Major League player to camp,” Grand Junction Rockies manager Tony Diaz said. “We try to stick to homegrown players. He’s a great kid, too. As good of a player he is, he’s an even better person.”
Children ages 9–12 are getting instruction on infield, outfield, catching, hitting and offensive skills in the morning. Participants ages 13–older are going in the afternoon.
“Everything starts to come back to you, especially at this age (9–12),” Pacheco said. “I was learning to play baseball, especially from my dad. We always worked on my fundamentals. It’s almost a good learning curve for me. I can relearn everything. You can’t remember everything. We have so many coordinators here, they really helped me in my career. Hearing them over and over again, you can never have too much information.”
The camp is directed by Colorado Rockies baseball operations assistant Rick Mathews. He’s been with the organization since its inception in 1993, and he’s been organizing camps since 1986.
“When kids come to a camp like this with the staff we have, we can give them all kinds of nuances to help them,” Mathews said. “The important thing is breaking everything down to baseball fundamentals.”
Camp instructors are Colorado Rockies catching instructor Marv Foley, outfield instructor Ron Gideon, infield instructor Dave Hajek, former Rockies bullpen catcher Mark Strittmatter, Diaz and Colorado Mesa University coach Chris Hanks.
“With the wealth of knowledge from the instructors, I don’t think you’ll find a more qualified team of instructors at any other camp,” Diaz said. “There’s more than 150 years of professional experience.
“The most important thing is for the kids to understand the basics of the game. Playing catch, catching a ground ball, catching a fly ball, and have fun while they do it.”