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Area youth turn out for annual Sapp baseball camp
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Pitcher Jack Herrington misses the tag on base runner Cooper Green -- even with assistance from Regan Caruthers -- at the 2013 Robert Sapp BasebalL Camp in Flowery Branch Friday afternoon. - photo by Nat Gurley | The Times

FLOWERY BRANCH — Over 145 youth attended the Robert Sapp Baseball Camp in Flowery Branch this week, the fourth stop in a six-week traveling camp throughout the state.

This year’s camps marked the 33rd year that Sapp, a former national championship-winning coach at Middle Georgia College, and high school coaches from throughout the state have held the traveling camp, which is available to children ages 7-14.

For much of those 33 years, the camp has made a stop in Hall County, an area rich in baseball tradition.

“These kids all over the state love to play baseball,” Sapp said Friday afternoon. “I will say that kids in this area seem to be a little more disciplined, as far as wanting to learn. Whether it is lunch break, or any other kind of break, they hardly want to eat. They want to get out here and play. This group here, they are out there playing.”

The camp began Monday and ran through Friday afternoon at Hog Mountain Sports Complex in Flowery Branch. Each day, campers spent the morning hours learning the fundamentals of baseball, something Sapp says many players are missing these days because of the amount of travel baseball games that are played. After a lunch break, the campers were broken into teams and finished each day by playing games.

“To me, I was taught fundamentals at an early age,” said Sapp, who also coached at the University of Georgia from 1997-2000. “I keep telling these guys, ‘I’ve coached several major league players that were not very skilled, but they have the good fundamentals.’

“You don’t have to be a super athlete or be super strong in baseball. If you can work on your fundamentals at an early age and get them right, and continue to work on them, then you can play at a high level, whether it is high school or college.”

Among the fundamental work that was stressed throughout the week was throwing and bunting, a skill that has become more important at the high school and college level in recent years.

“We always have sessions in bunting,” Sapp said. “Bunting helps you in hitting, because you have to keep your head on the ball.”

Along with learning the basic of bunting, hitting and throwing, Sapp and the camp coaches also showed every camp participant how to pitch, as many of the camp participants still were too young to know which position they will play when they’re older. To help players get used to fielding multiple positions, campers rotated positions each inning during the afternoon set of games.

“At this age, you don’t know what position you are going to play,” Sapp added. “They try to catch, get a feeling of what it is like to catch, and the coaches switch players every few innings. Some of the kids don’t like that, but after a while you learn to appreciate other people on your team and their positions.”

Sapp, who finished his college coaching career with a 915-210 record, said the week of camp in Flowery Branch went smooth, despite the threat of rain early in the week. Fortunately, the rain held off and the camp was not disrupted.

“The forecast said 90 percent Tuesday and we played out here in sunshine,” Sapp said. “These little kids have their smart phones and they would come up to you and tell you where everything is, every front. We managed to get everything in. We have not had to go in the gym this whole week.”

Two trophies were awarded Friday, signifying the end to the week-long camp. A trophy was awarded to a recipient in each age group for hustle and another for most improved.

Camp participants came from all over the greater Hall County area and beyond. Hall County schools Flowery Branch, Gainesville, North Hall, West Hall and Johnson were all represented, along with schools from outside the county, including Jefferson, Buford, Mill Creek and Dacula.

Along with Sapp, the camp was run by high school baseball coaches from throughout the state, many of whom have worked the camp for several years.

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