Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that's been especially evident during this week's Helias baseball camp.
The camp, which has boasted 170 players in kindergarten through eighth grade, ends today. During the past three days, the players have followed a definite schedule - and it's the same for everybody.
"(Monday) was 13 different stations we ran them through, (Tuesday) was more position-specific and (today) will be competitions - ball throw, speed, accuracy, grounds balls, fly balls," Helias head coach Chris Wyrick said. "We'll also throw in a water balloon thing because it's supposed to be hotter (today). Then we'll play some games and finish up with, as usual, sliding in the outfield in the water and the grass."
The pace might have been different for the youngest players, but they still did the same things as the big boys.
"We slow it down a lot (for the K-3 group)," Wyrick said. "We didn't get through the entire 13 stations (Monday), because we wanted to spend more time at each station. ... I figure the sooner they learn how to do things, even if they're 7, 8 years old, they'll retain some of it and hopefully they'll come back the next year and be able to progress and go faster and get more repetitions in.
"There was a little more intensity with the seventh- and eighth-graders. They can perform the skills and drills a little bit better, more efficiently."
And efficiency was key with that many players at the camp, which is busting at the seams.
"We had 170, which is a good turnout," Wyrick said. "I think it says something to the success (the high-school team has) had the past couple years. Everybody wants to be a part of that.
"If we get any bigger, we're going to have to go to a different facility, because we're at our peak here (at the Helias practice field). From that standpoint, you want your numbers to stay manageable. But I thought our high-school players did a great job of getting (campers) through the cages, through their stations, really keeping them moving."
That extra help was much appreciated.
"They've been a big help to us, because it's been just (Helias assistant) coach (Andy) Pitts and I as the only school coaches who could be here," Wyrick said. "Those guys have really done a good job. We've had 13-15 guys helping every day, which is tremendous, especially considering all the stuff they've got going on in their lives. To help out from 8 (a.m.) to 2 (p.m.) every day, I really appreciate it."
In addition to helping out at the camp, Helias' high-school players are hitting things hard this month. While the Crusaders aren't holding a camp of their own, they are attending 6:30 a.m. workouts every Wednesday and Thursday this month.
"We're really emphasizing that we're going to try to build arm strength this year, because we've got to be better playing catch and with our velocity from the mound," Wyrick said. "We're really stressing the arm strength, long-toss programs, and then stressing fundamentals."
The Crusaders are also playing in weekend tournaments every weekend this month with a minimum of four games each weekend.
"We're playing a weekend-only schedule and then we're done at the end of June because I want these kids to have some kind of summer break," Wyrick said. "They have so many other things going on, so we hope we can use the month of June. It used to be that summer was baseball season, and in my opinion, it still should be. But now we have to work around so many other things that I try to make June baseball-specific and baseball-intensive and then let them move on in July to other things or to take time off."
Each year, it gets a little more difficult to squeeze in offseason work.
"I kind of put my foot down a little bit this summer, saying, "You will be at the morning workouts and you will play with us at our games,' just trying to make sure baseball is a priority for the month of June," Wyrick said. "I'm only asking for four weekends and eight other days. I'm not even using my full 25 contact days (the maximum allowed by the Missouri State High School Activities Association), because I want these kids to have some kind of a down time in the summer. I don't want them coming to the baseball field hating to play the game. There's a balance you've got to try to find and we're still working on it."