PEORIA, Illinois (WMBD) – Last year, a group of retired Central Illinois baseball coaches and educators decided they wanted to start a youth baseball camp for inner-city Peoria kids.

In their eyes, a love of baseball had gotten away from Peoria while the sport was thriving in other areas, such as Bloomington.

They began with just a couple of athletes for their first session last year, but by the summer’s end, it grew to close to 20.

Now in its second year, they need two fields for various age groups, which has warmed the coaches hearts.

“It means the world…[we] talked saying ‘We need to do something to get youth baseball sparked in Peoria’ and I said ‘Yes.'”

John Dyke, Former Peoria Manual Head Coach and Bradley University Assistant

Last summer, games could not even be played, partly because many of the kids had never even played baseball before. Now, they are able to compete two nights a week.

“From day one when we got here we had to take the ball away and have them go through the motions and the footwork and visualize catching that ball and moving those feet and throwing,” Dyke said.

However, even with the camp growing, skill development is not at the top of the minds of these grizzled veterans. Rather, it’s about establishing a foundation for a love of the game.

“The biggest thing I hope to accomplish is to spark a major interest in baseball to a lot of these kids,” Dyke said. “And maybe the day will come that will be able to get here, and they can spend some time talking to me about what their favorite team did the night before… Maybe not too far down the road we’ll see some of these young kids get a chance to play in high school.”