The easiest thing in the world to see was how much fun the participants in Eric Bell Professional School of Baseball’s 10th Annual Summer Baseball Camp were having during the former big leaguer’s annual event at Rainbow Fields.
Kids upgraded their baseball knowledge in what has turned out to be one of the constants in the Central Valley’s baseball teaching clinics.
Bell teamed with a small crew of professional ball players and took time helping players develop their games on several different levels. Being able to throw a fastball for a strike is important, but the mental approach to the game is just as important, noted Bell.
“The mental game is something that I feel they have to absolutely build on as they get older and older,” he explained. “It really becomes the eliminating factor the farther along you go in baseball. You have to have enough talent, but you can go a long way if your brain is there.
“The mental make-up really has to be there.”
Bell stressed the different levels of importance of that aspect to the camp youngsters, delivering precious jewels to the area’s up-and-coming players who listened to the hulking ex-big league pitcher’s every word.
Players broke into different groups based on their age levels and abilities and took turns working on development on a position-by-position basis. Whether a player was focused on being a better infielder or outfielder, instruction was handed out on both positions.
For the camp, Bell surrounds himself with players who believe in what the pitcher preaches, leaving a consistent theme in every area that the kids work on. The players all have aspirations to continue further in baseball and Bell knows what separates those who continue and those who crumble.
“I have been doing this long enough,” Bell said. “You can see a common factor in kids who don’t go very far in baseball. They stop after little league, they stop after junior high, they stop after high school. To me, it seems like it’s all the same.
“It’s usually the aggressiveness and how mentally tough they are.”
The template for continuing on in baseball to at least the collegiate level is seemingly half completed by the time a kid is making their debut on the big fields.
“It sure seems to me that if a kid wants to play high school or college ball,” Bell said, “and they have all of the mental stuff it’s just not a problem.
“It just seems like they keep going.”
The kids on hand for the camp were intently listening to every word Bell had to offer, working hard at taking their development to new levels, yet it was obviously still baseball and the kids were unquestionably having a great time playing the game — as was the staff.
“You know, it’s been fun from day one,” Bell said of year 10 of his camp. “From the first time I ever played catch it just never stopped. I guess I’m just a big kid and baseball is the game I enjoy playing.”
Bell will be making his annual return trip to the area next summer, keeping a lifelong commitment of teaching baseball alive and strong in the Central Valley, passing on his knowledge and his love of the game.
“My camp in this area is important to me in a lot of different aspects,” Bell said. “Not only do I love passing along what I’ve learned over the years, but my family is there so I get to spend time with them.
“I appreciate giving back to the community that was so good to me.”