Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Clinic Boasts Local Stars, Eager Youngsters

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Clinic Boasts Local Stars, Eager Youngsters

Article excerpt


VENICE -- The clang of baseballs on aluminum bats and other sounds of summer returned Monday to Chuck Reiter Park as more than 60 youths took part in the 29th annual Venice Holiday Baseball Clinic.

Budding ballplayers ages 6 to 12 have an opportunity to work on hitting, fielding and hustle under the watchful eyes of camp organizers Nick Longhi and Jon Knott, and other counselors, all of whom played high school ball in the area and have either college or professional experience.

"At this age, they're soaking everything up like a sponge," said Tom Longhi, Nick's father.

"Learning how to hustle, learning all the positions -- the main thing is hustle."

Tom Longhi is no stranger to the holiday baseball clinic, which concludes today. He first brought Nick to one when he was 7, shortly after they moved from Springfield, Massachusetts.

Most counselors were once campers at the clinic, which was started in 1986 by Venice High School alumni Craig Faulkner (the current VHS head coach) and Mark Guthrie. Because they were playing professionally, the Christmas season was the only time they were available. Back then, the goal of Faulkner, Guthrie and fellow Venice alumnus Jack Voigt was to run the type of camp they never had as children.

With Knott -- who took over for Voigt -- and now Longhi taking over the clinic, the goal is to give current campers the same fundamentally sound experience they enjoyed.

"It's special for us to all be out here, too," said Longhi, a minor leaguer for the Boston Red Sox. "All of us came up doing stuff like this and being where all of us are -- whether it's college or professional baseball -- it's something that we like to do; it's something that we kind of cherish.

"When we worked with professional guys when we were young, it meant a lot to us, and it means a lot to these kids too."

Twelve-year-old Ian Jensen, a seventh-grader at Laurel Nokomis School, has attended at least six camps.

"Every time you come here, you can learn more stuff here and progress on what you're maybe not so good at," Ian said.

Already Monday morning, he'd soaked up a tip about pitching.

"When you go through your windup, you don't want to rush and jerk your hips," Ian said. …

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