Summer camps let Hens players connect with kidsWritten by Ashley McMahon | | email@example.com
Baseball season is finally here. America’s favorite pastime brings warmly welcomed mild weather, nights filled with fireworks and plenty of smiling Toledoans to Fifth Third Field to watch their beloved Mud Hens.
Along with the action-packed International League games, the “world famous” minor league team hosts a plethora of summer camps for area youth.
Emily Croll, special events coordinator for the Mud Hens, is entering her fourth year as camp leader and said these camps are a mainstay for young baseball lovers.
“We’ve maintained them because they’ve been very steady and very popular,” she said. “We have people who call in every year and specifically ask for these camps. With these, we’ve found we have a lot of success in keeping them constant.”
Most of the camps are offered to children ages 7-14, which allows youth to attend for a number of years, developing their skills on the field along the way.
The programs include a one-day camp, an adult-child camp, a three-day camp and a special needs camp, which is open to all ages.
All of the camps are coed and are hosted by the Mud Hens players inside Fifth Third Field. As an added bonus, all of the campers get a ticket to attend the game on the evening of the camp.
“They get to come to camp in the morning, the Mud Hens players are running it and then they get to attend the game at night and get to see guys playing who they had just hung out with in the morning,” Croll said.
The camps are a popular with the team as well as area youth and many players look forward to participating in the action.
“We put up sign-up sheets for a lot of these events and we never have a problem filling these events. Especially the special needs camps,” Croll said.
“The guys love coming out and being with the kids,” she said. “It brings them back. They remember that this is how they started. At some point there was someone that made them love baseball, so this is a good opportunity for them to share that love with other kids and be a kid for a morning.”
Over the years, the camps’ popularity has continued to rise, attracting large numbers to each event. The one-day and three-day camps have about 150-175 participants and the adult-child camp has about 200 participants. The special needs camp has experienced the most growth, according to Croll.
“Three years ago, it had 50 participants and last year there were close to 100 participants,” she said.
The Hens’ partnership with the Miracle League of Northwest Ohio helped build the camp’s attendance, Croll said.
The one-day camp is open to youth ages seven to 14 and costs $50 to attend. It takes place May 23.
There are two three-day camps, open to kids ages 7-14. These cost $140 and take place on July 8-10 and August 4-6. Lunch is served each day and the game ticket is for the final night of camp on each session.
On the last day of the three-day camp, there is a skills competition, a scrimmage and an awards ceremony.
“With the three-day camp, you get to know the campers a little more because you’re seeing them for three straight days,” Croll said. “You get to see their personality a little more and they really open up by the third day.”
The adult-child camp is open to kids ages 7-14 and one parent. This costs $80 for the pair and takes place July 18.
“You see a lot of really excited parents,” Croll said. “Whether you’re an adult or a child, getting to play on a professional level playing field with professional players is always cool. It’s really fun to see the parents and children interact together along with the players.”
The special needs camp is open to all ages and costs $25. It takes place June 20.
Participants with any type of special need are welcome to participate. It’s a time for them to come out and have fun, Croll said. It’s the least skills-specific camp and the participants get a chance to play with the Mud Hens players.
“The Mud Hens pitch to them, we do a scrimmage where everyone gets to bat,” Croll said. “We even added an aspect where they get to play from home plate and we announce them. They come up to home plate, and we announce who’s at bat and we do a live shot of them on the big video board and they get to do an at-bat against the Mud Hens player.
“The special needs camp has always been my favorite,” she said. “Some of these kids come every year. We get to know these families and we do not have any age limit for that one. It’s been really great to see families who a lot of times have stress outside of this just come and forget that for a day.
“They get to come hang out, the players are always super awesome with them and having them come to the game afterwards has been really great, to see it grow the way it has.”
Along with the Mud Hens game ticket, each camp registration includes a camp T-shirt and a baseball signed by the player that hosted the camp.
Participants are urged to register at least one week in advance; they can do so online at mudhens.com/camp or by calling (419)-725-HENS.
Croll said the best aspect of the summer camps is the one-on-one interaction participants get with the players.
“I know a lot of people look at the Mud Hens and say, ‘Well, they’re not quite professionals, they’re not big leagues.’
“But especially in our three-day camp, we have a lot of times where a player may work camp two days and then he gets called to the Tigers the third day and isn’t even there,” she said.
“So these kids are getting a chance to say, ‘Man, that guy was showing me how to bat yesterday and now he’s playing with the Tigers.’ For us that’s been really awesome.”