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Teaching The Game To Future Sluggers With Gloves, Bats ... And Tennis Racquets



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The tennis balls and racquets were out for summer camp on the ... baseball diamonds? Yes, the grass and dirt, at Glander Fields in early July.

As part of a safe and fun way to teach some of the youngest baseball enthusiasts in town some fly ball catching skills, instructors at the Newtown High School Nighthawks Summer Baseball Camp borrow equipment from another sport.

Matt Paola, junior varsity head coach at Newtown High, hit pop fly tennis balls with his racquet and campers learned positioning, timing, and, of course, catching techniques.

“It’s a lot of fundamentals and teaching skills, and we’ve got to keep it fun for them,” said Paola, who played shortstop at Pomperaug High in Southbury before sliding over to third base at Endicott College in Beverly, Mass.

Paola and other coaches, along with high school players from the South-West Conference champion Newtown Nighthawks, helped future baseball sluggers and pitchers ages 6 to 13 get a taste of outfield and infield positions, as well as hitting and base running. Camp sessions are offered Monday through Friday for three hours every morning several times throughout the summer.

“We teach them how to field a ground ball or how to stay ready when a ball’s about to be hit at you,” high school outfielder and camp counselor Timmy Via said.

“It’s a good time just having fun with it. We try to teach them in a fun way,” added Reid Burns, a high school first baseman/catcher.

Paola said when a baseball player transitions into coaching it might surprise him how much he knows about the game and can pass on to younger generations.

“These guys have a lot to offer the little kids and you can tell they have a lot of fun, too,” Paola said of the high school counselors.

“It’s different but it’s fun at the same time,” Via said of shifting gears to coaching.

Jack Carta, a high school first baseman and pitcher, said teaching mechanics of hitting is an example of what the instructors offer.

“Being able to teach the stuff I’ve learned and pass it on,” is what Carta said he enjoys most about working with the young ball players.

Sessions are offered Monday through Friday from 9 am to noon, weeks of August 1, August 8, and August 15. Cost is $199.99 per session. Register through Newtown Parks and Recreation

Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at andyh@thebee.com.

Keaton Ervin fields a ground ball during the Newtown High School Nighthawks Summer Baseball Camp at Glander Fields in early July. —Bee Photos, Hutchison
Thomas Scinto throws the ball during an outfield drill.
Colin Scholz takes a swing during hitting drills.
Camp instructor Matt Paola hits tennis balls for players to practice their skills in the outfield.
Benji Scholz makes contact with a pitch.
Campers and counselors enjoy time on the baseball diamond during camp at Glander Fields. Pictured are, from left, front: Benji Scholz, Thomas Scinto, Keaton Ervin, and Landon Hafner; and back: Matt Paola, Reid Burns, Colin Scholz, Timmy Via, Levi Ervin, and Jack Carta.
Landon Hafner fields a grounder near second base.
Colin Scholz throws the ball after making a catch.
Benji Scholz is having fun making plays in the field.
Landon Hafner throws the ball.
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