All about the fundamentals at Kelton’s camp
By Kevin Eckleberry
LAGRANGE – It’s back to basics.
Each summer, LaGrange College baseball coach David Kelton hosts a pair of camps, and it’s all about the Xs and Os.
“It’s a great fundamental camp that we do every single year,” Kelton said on Friday at the conclusion of the first of his two week-long camps. “It’s really a camp that brings the guys back to the basics. There’s so much with the travel-ball guys playing so many games,
day in and day out, which is fine. But sometimes the basics and the fundamentals can be lost. This camp emphasizes the fundamentals and the basics of baseball. So that’s all we’re teaching to these guys. The 5 and 6-year-olds get it, all the way to the 11 to 13-year-olds. It’s good for all of them.”
Kelton recently completed his fourth season as the Panthers’ head coach, and he helped the team enjoy an historic spring.
The Panthers (40-6) set a program record for victories in a season, they won the regular-season and tournament championships in the USA South, and they went 2-2 in the NCAA tournament.
The Panthers didn’t lack for talent, but they won 40 games in large part because they played the game the right way and didn’t beat themselves.
Whether it was turning a double play, or getting a key bunt down, or bringing a runner home from third with less than two outs, the Panthers were the masters of execution, and that’s a big reason why they were the country’s top-ranked NCAA Division III team for nearly a month.
During his camps each summer, Kelton and the other instructors work with the young players on learning how to play the game correctly.
“That’s the beauty of a camp like this is getting back to basics,” said Kelton, a Troup High graduate who spent a decade playing professional baseball before turning to coaching. “At the end of the day, you know it doesn’t matter the level, you’re always going back to the basics. It can get overlooked at times, especially with the number of games everybody plays now, but you’re always starting back out with the fundamentals.”
Among those helping Kelton out were his assistant coaches, Nick Beamenderfer, Scott Mularz and Andrew Kozusko.
“I have a blast doing this,” said Beamenderfer, who has coached alongside Kelton for three seasons. “And seeing what they learn throughout the week, it’s fun, absolutely.”
Also serving as an instructor during the camp is Chad Pigg, who recently completed his fourth and final season as a LaGrange College player.
Pigg has worked at the camp in three of the past four years, and it’s something he looks forward to.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Pigg said. “I enjoy getting to watch them learn the game. It’s what we love.”
Al Bell began helping out at the camp in 2003 when it was run by then head coach Kevin Howard, and it has been a regular part of his summer schedule since then.
As always, Bell works with the youngest campers, which has its challenges, but Kelton said he’s the perfect man for the job.
“He’s very patient, which you have to be with the young ones,” Kelton said. “He does a great job, and he’s a dear friend of mine. He’s put so much time and energy year after year into these camps.”
For the past few years, Kelton has invited the family members to come to Cleaveland Field at Phil Williamson Stadium on the final day of the camp.
Kelton introduces the staff, and then leads the campers through a demonstration of what they learned during the week.
“It’s a good for them to see the fundamental things they’ve learned throughout the week, and they also see how all the sudden some verbiage that we use they catch onto really quick,” Kelton said.
Also, Kelton introduces a camper of the week, and that award went to Carter Allen of Carrollton.
Kelton said that Allen, and all of the campers, were a receptive audience throughout the week.
“These guys, they instantly respond, and that’s what you want,” Kelton said. “You want these guys to hear something, and be able to instantly put it in action.”
Kelton added that “it’s been a great group. These guys have really listened, really learned a lot. I appreciate them.”