One visit to Sportsfield Complex on Monday or Tuesday mornings will show the local boys of summer are hard at work.
With the sounds of country music mixing with the ping of metal bats and on-field chatter, the Leavenworth High School baseball program will be using the field twice a week throughout June to host its summer baseball camp.
Although head coach Joe Allison runs the camp similar to a regular high school practice, the setting is relaxed.
Allison said that's due to the extent of summer baseball his team plays.
“The way we practice during the high school season, it’s full-uniform,” Allison said. “Out here, I make it real casual. … I want to keep them comfortable coming out here. Plus I’d say 90 percent of these guys have games tonight. They play almost every day of the week, so we want to keep it as comfortable as possible while we’re still getting fundamental work in.”
Depite the relaxed atmosphere, the camp provides a valuable tool for Allison and his players.
With the inclusion of younger players who normally don't have the opportunity to mix it up on the field with the high school team, the future of Leavenworth baseball gets a chance to practice side-by-side with current Pioneers.
Sean Hammel, a 13-year-old attending the camp for the summer, said practicing with the high school team is helpful.
Hammell said there are six younger players attending the camp every week, which offers them a chance to pick up tips from older players.
“It’s good because we get to bond with them since they’re going to be our future teammates,” Hammell said. “Even if you make a good play, they’ll tell you how to improve. If you make bad plays, they’ll just pick you up.”
For the older team, the camp gives Allison an opportunity to keep his high school roster intact. With half of the team playing American Legion baseball in Leavenworth, and the other half playing showcase baseball, Allison said it's difficult to get some full-lineup work in during the summer.
The camp begins with early-morning workouts and agility training before the team heads out to Sportsfield with a two-hour fundamental practice and batting practice.
While it's a relatively short time to work with players, Allison said the opportunity is a valuable time to keep the team playing with one another.
“My main goal for the summer is to make sure that the high school kids stay together,” Allison said. “Every single one of these guys plays for some type of competitive team. … The problem that we struggle with nowadays as coaches is getting all those kids to play together in the summer.”
Averaging 15-20 players a day, in addition to Leavenworth alumni who come back to get some work in with the Pioneers, Allison said the camp is fundamentals-based more than anything else, adding that the team works on evaluation later in the summer.
On Monday morning, Allison and one of his assistants, Allan Singletary, played the role of practice facilitator — pitching for batting practice and hitting ground and fly balls for the team's fielding work.
Along the way, the coaches offer tips or encouragement to players. Hammell said it's the suggestions and the coaching that are the most helpful part of attending camp as a younger player.
“They’ve definitely been in the game longer,” Hammell said. “So they know more, they know how to help us out more and they give us tips and stuff. And they’re good at hitting fly balls to us.”