Boston Baseball Camp Thrives in West Roxbury

Thirteen years ago, a group of Boston Public School employees decided that they wanted to make quality baseball instruction available to all kids, regardless of where they live or their family's income.

Mike McCarthy, John McDermott, and Mary Grady started the Boston Baseball Camp at Daisy Field in Jamaica Plain as a low-cost camp for city kids who might not otherwise have the chance to participate in such a program. When the skating rink at Daisy Field burned down eight years ago, the camp was relocated to its current site at the West Roxbury High School and Community Center.

Kids from all over Boston participate in the camp, though camp director John McDermott says that the majority of them are from West Roxbury, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, and Allston-Brighton. The number of Dorchester young people who participate in the camp increases each year.

The camp runs for five weeks and each child may participate in a maximum of two weeks. Four hundred young people, ages seven through 14, male and female participate in the program each summer. An average day at Boston Baseball Camp consists of calisthenics, skill instruction, batting cage instruction, team practice, and a daily scrimmage game. The seven to eight year-olds or Rocketeers, have a less rigid schedule and their day also includes singing a song, (e.g. "Take Me Out To The Ballgame") which they perform for the entire camp on Friday.

The cost of the camp is very reasonable and family-friendly; the fee for the first child is $60 per session, the second child (in immediate family) is $30 per session, and the third child is just $10 per session. McDermott stresses that families would have to pay $200-$400 per week per child for this type of quality instruction if Boston Baseball Camp was run privately. The Boston Baseball Camp is made possible by the combined sponsorship of the Yawkey Foundation, the Boston Red Sox, Polaroid, Ocean Spray, Reebok, and Pepsi Cola. All that the kids need to bring to camp is a lunch and a glove.

"But we will provide them, if necessary," explains McDermott.

The camp is staffed by schoolteachers, college students, many of whom are Boston Baseball Camp graduates, and young coaching assistants whose positions are funded through the Boston Youth Cleanup Corps fund. Boston Baseball Camp places an emphasis on sportsmanship and good instruction.

"The games we play are used as instructional tools," says McDermott. "Competition is secondary. Playing sports is a very important part of growing up and learning to get along with others. Kids from different neighborhoods in the city usually only get together on the field as competitors. It is nice for them to have the opportunity to play as teammates."

Every child who participates in the camp receives a hat, which is provided by the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox also donate the baseballs used at the camp, which means that the kids play with balls that were used by the Red Sox during games at Fenway Park! In addition, campers receive a trophy and a t-shirt. Pepsi Cola has sponsored the shirts through this summer. However, the Boston Baseball Camp is looking for a new shirt sponsor for next year.

Every day, a "player of the day" is recognized and each Friday, a "player of the week" is awarded a certificate. McDermott says that this distinction is not granted for athletic prowess alone, "It is presented to that person that you would most like to have on your team. It is for things like attitude, cooperation, willingness, sportsmanship, and improvement of skills."

While the camp has ended for the summer of 2002, call 617-361-7362 to get involved next year.