Bret Pagni hosted the second session of his annual summer camp and many area youths showed up to improve their skills on the diamond. Forty five kids, ages 5-to-12, participated in Session 2. That number is about average for the annual camps but down from the 60 figure of last summer's second camp.
Despite the distance, with the camp taking place in the Galena area, Pagni said roughly half of the camp's participants were from Sparks. Pagni's baseball academy, which is also home to the Muckdogs baseball club, hosts camps over the Washoe County School District's winter break and spring breaks as well.
"We feel the camps provide a good environment to teach kids the game while also teaching them social interaction with all different types of kids and coaches," said Pagni, whose academy is housed in Sparks industrial district south of Interstate 80. "The lesson environment is great, but kids need more than just one-on-one to be able to grow as a player and person.
The second session of camp started Monday and concluded Thursday. Each daily period ran from 8:30 a.m. to noon. The first two days of the camp were comprised of station work with drills aimed at improving, pitching, hitting, infield and outfield defense as well as base-running and other intangibles.
The second two days of the camps include shorter station work and scrimmages.
"We focus on teaching two aspects of the games at the camps, the fundamental side of the game and the situational side of the game," Pagni said. "We want the kids to know how to hit, throw and field, but we also want them knowing what to do in a game environment. This is why we have the instructional scrimmages take place along with doing drills."
Many of the youths competing are participants of multiple camps. Kristy Shaffer's 8-year-old son Beau went to a summer camp last year and has also taken part in camps over the winter and spring breaks.
"He enjoys it and that's the biggest thing," said Shaffer, a Sparks resident. "He loves baseball and this is something he can do in the summer time. He gets to work on his skills. It's very beneficial. This a great program with great coaches and I think the kids have fun with the coaches being out there and involved."
Many of the camp instructors are teens, local high school kids who play for the Muckdogs club. Others are Sparks-Reno natives who are college baseball players that competed for the Muckdogs during their prep days.
Session 2 of the camps featured a trio of Sparks-area instructors. Matt Mannens, who recently graduated from Spanish Springs, Thomas Sertic, who will be a senior at Reed in the fall and Casey Carter, who graduated from Sparks High earlier this month, all got a chance to work with the local youths.
"It's a very fun experience," said Mannens. "You get to teach kids and see the other side of the game, which is coaching. You get a new perspective and understand the patience your coaches must have, the patience that you must now have to help kids at the camps.
"It feels great if you can pass knowledge along to kids. That gives you an empowered feeling, like all the playing you've done is paying off because you're helping the kids."
Pagni admitted it's nice to have his club players work the camp and he reiterated some of Mannens' feelings.
"We love to bring in our current 19U and 17U players, as well as kids who are playing college baseball currently from our program to help out," he said. "We find that this helps these players understand the game from a different perspective when they are helping kids."
For more information on local camps, Pagni's baseball academy or the Muckdogs baseball club, check out the web site: MuckdogsBaseballClub.com.