Flowery Branch's Robert Sapp started his youth baseball camp in 1981 as a means to make some extra cash. Nearly four decades later, Sapp’s camp has blossomed into a lifelong passion.
The 39th year of the Robert Sapp baseball camps kicks off in June, and includes a stop in Flowery Branch. Sapp, a former University of Georgia and Middle Georgia College coach who refers to himself as an “old school coach,” sees his camp as an opportunity to lay a strong foundation for young players looking to separate themselves from their peers.
“From the start, I wanted to try to help the kids with their fundamentals,” Sapp said. “I feel like fundamentals have sort of gone astray here, even in the old days.”
In the beginning, Sapp held his camp for three weeks in the summer at three different locations: Gwinnett County, where he had connections from earlier in his coaching career, Cochran, where he coached during the school year at Middle Georgia College, and his home town of Brunswick. Together, the three locations gave options for young baseball players from north, central and south Georgia to find a way to his camps.
About 10 years into running the business, the father of one of Sapp’s players at Middle Georgia encouraged him to expand to Flowery Branch.
“I said, ‘Are there many people out here?’” Sapp said. “He said, ‘They’re out here. You’ll have a big crowd.’”
And he was right.
Sapp’s new stop, then located at Alberta Banks Park, drew good numbers from the start — sometimes getting up to 120 campers for the week — and the business was off and running. About 30 years later, Sapp still makes a regular stop in Flowery Branch, though these days he makes use of the newer Hog Mountain Sports Complex. This year, he will also be traveling to Dublin, Warner Robbins, St. Simons Island, Brunswick, Thomson and Richmond Hill, offering baseball instruction everywhere and girls softball in select locations.
Sapp attributes his long run of success to a couple of factors, and it all starts with his sterling attendance record.
“I guarantee I’ll always be there,” he said. “I’ve never missed a day in camp. I always think that if I’m there, I feel good about it.”
Beyond that, Sapp’s consistent retention rate of high quality coaches as well as the camp’s focus on helping the kids grow in social situations and athletic ones makes it an experience that regular campers are excited to return to come summer.
Nearly 40 years since Sapp’s inaugural camp, he’s even started to see some second generation campers start to show up.
“At each camp, we’ll have quite a few kids that their parents went to this camp,” he said. “That’s sort of interesting to see, and it makes me feel good that they want their kids to be in our camp. I think we have a pretty good recommendation from people. People feel like, if they come out here for 30 hours, they’re going to get better.”
Sapp’s camp does not give out trophies to every camper, opting instead for ribbons given out on Friday. According to him, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, former Robert Sapp camp participant and fellow Brunswick native Adam Wainwright still keeps his ribbon for pitching (second place, as Sapp recalls) in his trophy case.
But while Sapp’s campers will not bring home any sort of hardware like other camps may offer, he assures that his pupils will return home with something much more valuable.
“We tell them first day, what we’re going to give you is to give you more skills in all the fundamentals by Monday through Friday,” Sapp said. “That’s the trophy we’re going to give you.”