HANFORD — At the end of the Hanford Baseball Camp, players thanked the coaches who had taught them their newfound skills.
The camp, which was spread out over Wednesday and Thursday at Hanford High, featured 32 kids and a multitude of coaches to help kids with both defensive and offensive instruction. For Dalton Silva, a current Hanford High baseball assistant coach, he put together the camp to help give back.
“I didn’t have this opportunity when I was younger,” Silva said. “I would have to go to Visalia or Fresno so it’s my turn to give back. Even when I’m teaching these kids I’m still learning, so it’s beneficial for me and beneficial for them at the same time.”
Silva brought on coaches he knew to help run the camp and those who would maximize the potential of each player.
Those coaches included Hector Ruvalcaba, Solomon Maddox, Max Coyt, Dustin Silva and Joe Britton. All five of them have plenty of experience with the game.
Ruvalcaba finished his first year at Bakersfield College as a shortstop, Coyt played second base this year at College of the Sequoias and Maddox will play first base at Saint Katherine’s in San Diego to list a few of their credentials.
“It takes a lot of stress off of me,” Silva said. “Last time I did this in December, it was [my buddy and I] and we had 37 kids. I know I trust these guys, they play college baseball and they’re still playing.”
Day one was all about defense. There were two groups of players with ages 5-9 in the morning and 10-14 in the afternoon. The players were broken up into infielders and outfielders during defensive instruction.
In the infield, players learned how to step to first base, flip to the second baseman and more.
“We broke it down from the very beginning, how they field a ground ball, what hops to look for, what to do after you get those hops,” Silva said. “Footwork stuff and also maintaining a solid base for throwing the ball.”
Coaches hit ground balls to them and corrected them when they made a mistake. It was positive encouragement all along the way, but not without telling the players exactly what they needed to do. The one-on-one coaching experience and attention to detail the players received could not be understated.
The outfield was the same when it came to learning. From walking the field and understanding each part, to “opening the gate” — a reference to turning one’s hips on a fly ball — and fielding balls off the wall. These were just some of the techniques taught during the day.
The offense on Wednesday focused particularly on bunting and taking swings in the batting cage. With bunting, the players were taught how to get low and position their bat when attacking the ball. In the cage, games like two-strike hitting unfolded to keep the kids sharp with their swings.
The final item on the agenda was running the bases for a race between the two groups.
“I feel like the intensity is what people benefited from the most,” Silva said.
Blake Raymond, 9, was one of the players on the field for the two-day camp. His favorite part was learning, and he said he already improved on his play flipping.
“I’m learning about my flipping and my fielding,” Blake said. “I get to learn and I have opportunities for it.”
The camp also gave the players an opportunity to interact with one another and learn from each other.
“It feels good because now I can meet new people and get better,” Blake said.
At the end of the camp on Wednesday, it was time for some pure fun. Silva turned on the sprinklers and the kids had a makeshift slip ‘n slide.
Naturally, it turned into a game with two bases put at the end of the slide and kids sliding into them before jumping up and running to two baseball bats. Once there, they spun around until one of the coaches told them to run back and tag their teammate in. It made for plenty of laughs and a couple of dizzy players.
“It’s awesome because the best part of it is they’re all having fun,” Silva said as he reminisced on the two days. “It’s cool to have coaches and myself be able to give them knowledge as well as teach them baseball is still a game.”