AVON PARK – The South Florida State College Panthers hosted the 21st Annual Baseball Camp this week.

Seventy ballplayers, ages five to fourteen, descended on Panther Field to learn more about the game of baseball and to improve.

“We are blessed to have a great turnout,” said South Florida State College head baseball coach Rick Hitt. “This is the largest turnout we have had in twenty years. We have a bunch of campers who want to come out to the college and be a part of a camp that we emphasize teamwork and the growth within the game that we want to see all campers achieve. If we can give them a little something to take to their youth leagues so they can continue to play and to emphasize some of the things that we feel are important as they grow and help them with that, then it is a great week for us.”

Campers were broken down into groups and rotated through five stations teaching different skills needed to play baseball. The five stations worked on fly balls, ground balls, target throwing, bunting and live hitting stations.

“This camp really helps me,” said August Stivender, age 11. “I have been coming here for four straight summers and I really enjoy it. My favorite part is playing the game at the end of each day, it is so much fun. My dad signed me up for this camp a long time ago and I am glad he did because I really like it. This camp has helped me a lot especially with my swing and my stance. It has also helped me with my work ethic and my mind. It’s a great camp. The coaches are awesome and a lot of fun. I will definitely be back again next year.”

At the end of camp, the athletes participate in three different games that include a wiffle ball game, a hand-eye coordination game and a routine baseball game each day.

“This humbles me,” said former Avon Park High School standout and current Panther baseball player A’Darius Council. “To be able to help these kids. This reminds me that this is just a game. It is great to be able to give back to this community. So many people were able to help me as a child so for me to halfway do the same is wonderful. My favorite part is having kids ask me questions. I have never had kids ask me questions, I have always been the one asking the questions so they look up to me and that is cool. I hope these kids leave with the baseball fundamentals, that they understand it is just a game and that they will know the right way that it should be played.”

Campers learn about baseball under the direction of coach Hitt, Panthers softball head coach Carlos Falla, volunteer assistant coach Mark Ward and Panther players Council and Mike Bessell.

“I came to this camp because I want to work on my skills,” said Kinsley Kesterson. “This is my second year at camp. The coaches really help you and work with you. I play for the city and on a travel ball team and this camp has helped me with my skills. My favorite part is making friends and hitting. My dad works at the college and signed me up and I am glad he did because I’m having fun. I hope to get better at fielding while I’m here. The coaches are great and have helped a lot. I will be back next year.”

The South Florida State College Panthers host baseball camps every summer. Campers must bring their own equipment. Camp is for ages 5 to 13 and all skill levels are welcome. For more information please visit southflorida.edu or contact Coach Rick Hitt at hittr@southflorida.edu or 863-784-7036.

“We enjoy doing this camp each summer,” said Coach Hitt. “I have had campers come play for me and I have seen that transition from five year old camper to college player and that was awesome to me. That is a cool transition to see and the growth that comes with that. Hopefully we will have some future Panthers in this bunch.”


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