PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — It may not look like a field of dreams.
But it could be to some young baseball players. And it certainly is to the coaches who hosted free baseball clinics to school age kids the past two months.
“The goal basically was to give kids, particularly in the inner city, a chance to participate in some baseball instruction,” said longtime Peoria High School baseball coach Mike Olson.
And Olson wasn’t alone. Some of his friends from the Peoria Baseball Association were with him.
“The game is like a Bible to us. We really believe in it,” said longtime area baseball coach Clay Cantrell. “If you looks at everybody, we have eight coaches in their 70’s. “
Retired teachers and coaches, Olson, 73, and Cantrell, 78, started inviting kids to Peoria’s Von Steuben School in June for hour-long clinics. The baseball clinics were four days a week without any games.
Only instructional drills.
“We’re going to work on ground balls today, we’re gong to work on pop-ups, we’re going to work on perfects swings today. On (batting) stance and grip,” Olson explained.
The neighborhood instructional camp got off to a rough start. The first day, only four kids showed up.
But through word of mouth and a little social media help, more young baseball players started attending. If youngsters rode by on a bike, they were invited to join the clinic even if they didn’t have baseball gloves.
On the final day of the grass roots summer camp, over two dozen kids were receiving baseball instruction. And that warmed the hearts of the veteran coaches.
“The kids we’ve had have been very receptive and most of them returned,” Cantrell said. “Some of these little guys are cute as all get-out. You watch then play every day. We hope we can see that progression for that young man.”
Young boys having fun on a diamond. Thanks to some older men planting the seeds of baseball dreams.