By Walsh CARVALHO
The Crescenta Valley Falcons Baseball Organization, led by 14-year veteran CV head coach Phil Torres and assistant coach/CV boys’ athletic director Dave Mendoza, held its annual baseball camp Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 at Stengel field.
Torres was in good company at his annual camp, which is targeted for third to eighth graders. CV coaches, alumni, current CV players and college players from coach Torres’ Babe Ruth League teams assisted at the two-day event.
Torres, who has led the Falcons to 10 Pacific league championships, has been hosting the CV baseball camp for 13 years.
“We have come a long way from the first year,” said Torres nostalgically. “We held this camp in the parking lot of the old (Crescenta Valley) campus the first year.”
The camp focuses on the fundamentals of baseball, touching on all aspects. The drills include infield, outfield, pitching, hitting and sliding. Crescenta Valley junior Bogart Avila, who will be fighting for a starting role as catcher this season at CV, has been attending the camp since fifth grade and has been assisting Torres with the camp for the last two years. Avila made the trip to the Babe Ruth World Series semi-finals this last year and hopes for a title at CV.
Helping out with pitching mechanics at the camp was Rob Rassmussen. Rassmussen was drafted by the Dodgers out of high school however he opted to attend college first. He will be pitching for the UCLA Bruins this year, and hopes that the Dodgers organization appreciates his decision and will choose him when he enters the draft next year.
The coaches at camp were adamant about teaching proper fundamental baseball. Batting coach Brent Forsee reminded the kids of this when he worked with them on their approach to hitting. “You can only get away with this if you’re making a million dollars a year, with a contract,” stated Forsee referring to a player’s showboat batting stance.
Most of the players responded well to the direction of the coaches. Chase Paul Smith, an elementary school age boy, attempted “Larry’s laundry bag” with the bigger kids. Larry’s laundry bag is a training exercise designed to teach kids how to jump over a sliding player in order to turn a double play. And as the name implies, an actual laundry bag is used.
Chase’s excitement at completing the exercise was obvious. “Dad, dad,” he said to father Ron, “you had to do this,” then demonstrated by jumping in the air to get his story across. “And the coach rolled the ball to you, you had to, you had to throw it to second baseman, then you had to throw it to first.”
Chase also showed some outstanding infielding ability in a grounder drill with Camarillo resident Carey Bash. Bash is staying with his cousin at their grandparents’ in La Cañada in order to attend the baseball camp.
But it wasn’t just the kids who learned some tips at the camp. “I come and I hang out so I can take what they teach here back to my practices,” said a parent/coach of the Crescenta Baseball Associations Mustangs. “This is where I come and watch the guys who know what they’re talking about, [who] teach the kids. This camp teaches me how to coach an effective practice.” He said that his son Andrew has been coming to the camp for three years. He added that he knew early on that Andrew would be a ball player – “His first word was ball, not dad” – leading him to become his son’s coach.
Drew Arredondo was another parent/coach that had his child enrolled in Torres’ event. Arredondo is the vice-president of the Crescenta Valley Little League and felt that Torres’ camp offered a lot. “It’s good for the kids’, it’s good to get them out here, get them some exercise, sharpen their skills. Phil does a real good job; it’s highly organized, very technical. These are the [CVHS] future teams and they’re trying to teach them the right skills.”
Crescenta Valley resident Sam Alsamman had his two boys attend the camp for the first time after receiving a letter from Torres himself. Alsamman’s son Frank must have caught the attention of Torres at the Little League All-star game where he was the only player to hit a home run.
The Falcons, under the wing of Torres, have turned out some high quality collegiate and professional level ball players. Most notably is Trevor Bell, who was drafted by the Angels out of high school, and had his first win at the major league level last season.
Another notable player is from the San Diego Padres. Brandon Higelin also took flight after playing for the Falcons.