SCHENECTADY — Baseball camp is in session again at Central Park, with dozens of young players getting help with their game from an assortment of coaches and college athletes.
The skills camp brought 39 young athletes out in 2019, its inaugural year, but lost the 2020 session to COVID.
Monday brought 55 children and more than 30 coaches out again in Central Park, the only sign of the pandemic being that lunch wasn’t served. The event will conclude Tuesday.
“This is what I do all summer,” said Alex Jurczynski, a city native and assistant baseball coach at Princeton University who is director of the event, which is staged by the Schenectady Ole Timers Baseball Club. “Most kids don’t get such an opportunity. It just builds their love for baseball.”
Jurczynski returned to the area after graduating from SUNY Oswego and became baseball coach at Hudson Valley Community College. He remains closely connected to the city even after four years working at the Ivy League school 200 miles south of Schenectady.
“I’ve been in the Ole Timers Club for seven, maybe eight years,” Jurczynski said.
A few years ago, he recalled, “I said, why don’t we do something for the community?’ I brought up the idea for a skills camp. I try and do as much as I can with the community back here.”
There’s a lot of work in setting it up, recruiting three dozen coaches and former standout players from area schools to coach and drill Schenectady boys and girls ages 7 to 12.
Also instrumental in planning and running the camp were Will Bernacet, Ryan Bouck, Michael Godlewski, Jerry Rosen and Chris Wilgocki.
Jurczynski said the camp sessions are structured to focus on building skills. The campers break into four groups (hitting, pitching, infield fielding and outfield fielding) for specific drills in their area, then they come back together for games and a general exercise — baserunning on Monday, a home run derby on Tuesday.
“You’re not going to learn a new skill set in two days’ time,” he said. “If they leave excited and they want to play baseball, we did our job. If we can get them just to love the game and want to play, it’s worth every minute, every penny we put into it.”
Every player will get a baseball glove and a swag bag loaded with baseball gear, and the cost of their Little League registration will be paid for.
The top four finishers in the home run derby will get a donated Victus bat.
The city should be a baseball powerhouse, Jurczynski said, lamenting the fact that it’s down to a single youth league.
Organizers announced last week that Schenectady’s Cal Ripken League and Schenectady Little League would merge their Rec League programs this fall.
It is, they said, the strongest effort yet to rebuild youth baseball in the city.
The league will operate out of the Oregon Avenue and Michigan Avenue fields, said Bouck, who has been closely involved in the rehabilitation of the historic Michigan Avenue field, which was home to the 1954 Little League World Champion team.
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