Elmwood Park’s winter baseball camp gives boys a jump on summer
Nate Brown, 6, participates in a throwing drill at Elmwood Park Parks and Recreation Department's youth baseball camp. The youth meet once a week. | David Pollard~Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:22AM
ELMWOOD PARK — Baseball season for the youth is still a few months away, but that hasn’t stopped them from preparing for it.
Every year Elmwood Park Parks and Recreation Department holds a six-week baseball camp for boys and girls from 6 to 12 years old. The camp takes place inside the civic center’s gym, 2 W. Conti Parkway, every Thursday afternoon and is currently in its fifth week.
Whatever winter blahs the cold may have created are immediately cast aside during the two-hour afternoon session, and replaced by screaming, yelling, sweating and the overall intensity that comes with playing baseball.
The first hour is for 6- to 8-year-olds; the second hour, for 9- to 12-year-olds.
Ted Gruber coordinates the program along with Ryan Szymonik and takes the campers (all boys this year) through some of the basics of baseball. He wants them to be prepared for whatever baseball team they will play for, whether a spring league or a simple pick-up game.
“We cover hitting, fielding, throwing and working on proper mechanics,” Gruber said. “It’s a good start up for them to get started playing baseball.”
To practice they use a softer ball, about the same size as a regular baseball.
Still, during batting practice, participants like Nate Brown, 6, and his brother Conner, 7, tried to hit it as hard as they could. The rest of the boys were crouched farther back in the gym, legs apart, ready to field whatever was hit their way.
Gruber was on the mound, lobbing pitches to them from a bucket of balls, yelling encouragement to each batter.
“Correct your stance. Keep your eye on the ball. Good job.”
Mike Maranto sat on the stage at the back of the gym as he watched his two sons, Nathan, 9, and Eliott, 6, practice. He said his sons also participated in the camp last year.
“This gets them back in the mode of baseball,” he said. “Some of the drills they go through we go home and work on the same drills.”
Arthur Ball, brought his great-grandson Darius McDonald, 9, to the camp. McDonald enjoys the camp -- and the refreshments, as well.
“I like the hitting and playing games and I like the Gatorade,” he said.
Annie Cmiel, said she has been bringing her son, Charlie, 10, to the camp for years.
“We’ve been doing it because of Teddy (Gruber),” she said.
“He’s a really nice guy and he’s been doing it for years,” she added.
“I like the way he runs the program,” she said. “He knows every one of the kids names and that’s pretty impressive.”~.