March 18, 2018
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UMaine baseball lends a hand to communities through instructional camps

Michael C. York/BDN | BDN
Michael C. York/BDN | BDN
Universty of Maine assistant baseball coach Billy Cather (center) and kids participating in the Hermon youth baseball clinic put their hands together at the end of the day Thursday. Cather is one of 13 University of Maine players and coaches and two high school coaches who teach in the four-week-long series of clinics in Southwest Harbor, Orono and Hermon.
By JOEL NEILL, Special to the BDN

The University of Maine baseball program’s overnight instruction camp attracts hundreds of kids every summer.

But now head coach Steve Trimper and members of his coaching staff are taking the step to reach out to local communities and bring instruction to more kids, giving them and their parents a more convenient option to learn the sport from the state’s only Division I program.

UMaine assistant coaches Billy Cather — a former captain for the Black Bears and a two-time America East second-team honoree — and Jason Spaulding, former John Bapst coach Shane Graham and Old Town baseball coach Dave Utterback took to the Hermon Elementary School fields last week for a five-day camp that featured a variety of station-oriented clinics. Kids ages 7-13 attended the camp, one of several conducted by UMaine in local communities this summer.

“We certainly want to bring kids to UMaine for our overnight camps, but the more we can get into the community the easier it is for kids to attend our camps if they can’t make it to Orono,” Trimper said Sunday as he prepared for this week’s UMaine’s overnight camp, which will have 126 participants.

Getting UMaine baseball more involved with local communities stemmed from an idea by Luke Allain and from UMaine’s winter Little League clinics, which involves 15-16 teams per year on average.

Allain, a Hermon parent and coach, is involved with a program called Fields for Kids, which uses an indoor facility behind Bangor’s Beal College that hosts area soccer clinics and games. When the idea of playing baseball and softball in the facility came about, interest started growing.

Allain and other volunteers began to teach fundamentals in the winter, and when he brought a team to UMaine’s winter camp he struck up a relationship with Trimper, Cather, Spaulding and others. They began discussing how they could dive deeper into communities, and the locally-targeted camps were born.

“We wanted to use the local facilities and resources we had for kids who can’t, for whatever reason, make it to Orono for the overnight camps,” Allain said. “It’s all about the kids and doing what’s right to give them proper instruction, and working with the university to do this has just been great.”

Another key figure in the organization of the Hermon camp was Scott Perkins, the town’s parks and recreation director. Perkins worked with the Trimper and UMaine to spread the word about the camp by sending a newsletter home to Hermon residents. Perkins, the parks and recreation department and multiple volunteers also made sure the facilities were well prepared before each session, and lent some of their equipment to the camp.

“I have to give credit to UMaine baseball and all of our volunteers. If it weren’t for them this wouldn’t have happened,” Perkins said. “I think that Bill, Jason, Shane and Dave enjoyed their time here this past week, and I know the kids and the parents certainly did. For them to come to Hermon and make it a good setting for the kids because it was local was just fantastic.”

The 30 participants who attended the camp every day rotated through different stations that the camp instructors set up, and the coaches talked about baseball with the kids in between.

Stations included hitting in batting cages, pitching work, baserunning, and fielding.

“When I was a kid it was someone taking batting practice and the other kids in the field chasing the ball or standing around,” Perkins said. “These guys came into this camp with a very professional approach but also kept it fun. They know how to keep everyone active and always doing something.”

Trimperv also held a local camp on Mount Desert Island two weeks ago and has held a camp in Poland the past four years. He said reaching out locally like this not only helps foster the program’s public image and provides them with an opportunity to give back, but it helps kids get better and learn more about baseball, which is the program’s ultimate goal for the camps.

“The kids are great to work with, and our coaches have fun and take a lot of pride in trying to help them get better and gain more knowledge than they knew before they came to the camp,” Trimper said. “If they can leave the camp knowing that they learned something new and had some fun, then it’s fantastic.”

Trimper also mentioned a goal of the program is to reach out to more area high school coaches and have the instruction filter into the high schools. It has already started doing that with the addition of Graham and Utterback to the camp coaching staff.

“There’s no doubt Hermon’s putting a lot of effort and time into youth baseball and softball, and this camp is just one more piece to the puzzle,” Perkins said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have members of UMaine come to us, and they’re certainly welcome back.”

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