Youngsters had a chance to learn what it felt like on the Dodger field during summer camp.
By Brandon HENSLEY
Joc Pederson owns centerfield most of the time at Dodger Stadium, snatching away would-be doubles and triples from opposing hitters. But this past week, the vast expanse of grass in the outfield was taken over by youngsters hoping to someday be the next star to wear Dodger blue, and for some Crescenta Valley High School student-athletes, it was their chance to help aid in that dream.
Campers were not discouraged by the record-breaking heat, as 150 kids came out for the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation’s Youth Summer Camp. The four-day event, which ended on Tuesday, saw boys and girls ages 7 to 12 hit the field to learn the fundamentals of baseball and play games against one another.
From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day, players were instructed in fielding and hitting by current Dodger coaches, as well as from teenage volunteers from several high schools around the area, including Malibu and Notre Dame. The school that had the most coaches was Crescenta Valley, with seven.
“I wouldn’t expect there to be as many CV people as there are, but it’s nice to have all my friends here,” said junior Roxy Raad, who was joined by fellow Falcons Lucas Martos-Repath, Alyssa Pimentel, James Baek, Luke Hempel, Drew Atherton and Angel Ramos.
Being a volunteer wasn’t relegated to just baseball players. Raad is a CV girls’ varsity volleyball player whose goal is to earn 100 community service hours by graduation. The Associated Student Body at CV sent out information this spring for athletes who would be interested in several community service opportunities. One of them was to coach at Dodger Stadium and, for the Falcon students, it was a no-brainer to sign up.
“I saw the name Dodgers, and camp, and I really like working with kids and teaching baseball,” said Martos-Repath, a varsity baseball player who on Tuesday was out in the sun-drenched field wearing shades and a gray Falcon logo baseball shirt. The CV coaches were assigned the 7 and 8-year-olds and, as one might expect, the little ones had excited energy and a passion for the game.
“It’s been pretty smooth. The kids came in knowing the basics, and it’s been easy to improve their game,” Martos-Repath said.
This is the 13th year the Dodgers have held the camp, the fees from which benefit two main programs of the franchise: the Dream Fields Initiative, which helps refurbish inner city softball and baseball fields, and the Dodgers RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner cities) program. Campers were treated with their own jerseys, and received a gift bag as well as autographed photos from players.
The second summer session is set for Aug. 4.
Lunchtime on Tuesday consisted of pizza in the shade, set at the top of the left field pavilion. Then after it was back to the fun and games. On the field, Dodger pitching coach Rick Honeycutt threw balls to players during a game. In addition to the action outside, campers also took instruction in the batting cages from legendary player/coach Manny Mota, who studied individual’s swings on a tee. The kids may not be up to speed on their Dodger history – this was roughly the same space an injured Kirk Gibson practiced his swing minutes before hitting his fabled winning home run in the 1988 World Series – but it must have been exciting nonetheless to see where the pros go behind the dugout.
Back underneath a cloudless sky, Raad was amazed at being on the field of the third oldest ballpark in Major League Baseball.
“It’s so cool. You can’t imagine what it’s like to be on this field until you get on it,” she said. “It’s huge. I can’t imagine being a Dodger player.”
Raad’s week was hectic. She woke up at 5 a.m. and carpooled with Pimental to the stadium. After camp, she came back to school to practice volleyball with her team for several hours. It was a tiring, but rewarding, pace.
“I like being with kids, and I like being busy. Plus, I love the Dodgers, so that’s also another part of it,” said Raad, who has also volunteered at the Crescenta-Cañada YMCA.
While she’s on the path to earning 100 community service hours, Martos-Repath, a senior next year, has blown those numbers away. He’s a consistent volunteer for CVHS’ Prom Plus organization, which aims to provide a safe and fun after-prom experience every year, and is active in the school’s robotics program.
“I like helping out the community and being a part of things, just being able to help everywhere I go,” he said.
Out of earshot from anyone else, Martos-Repath admitted the Dodgers are only his second favorite team. No, he doesn’t cheer for a division rival – he loves the Detroit Tigers instead. Still, he was able to appreciate just what coaching on such a pristine field and a historic place means.
“Dodger Stadium’s a marvel,” he said. “The grounds crew does a phenomenal job with the field and it’s an honor to be able to step on the same field as some of the greats.”
“It’s pretty cool,” he added, “especially because you’re here with your friends. It’s a better time.”