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Mayors Play Ball teaches kids baseball from the best

SALISBURY — College baseball and softball players taught kids how to play ball Saturday at Mayors Play Ball at Catawba College.

The free baseball and softball camp gave 7- to 15-year-olds the opportunity to learn agility, hitting, playing outfield and infield, catching, pitching and running bases. Heath Mitchem, a senior outfielder, has been leading the camp for three years.

“It’s fun to see how simple baseball can be,” Mitchem said. “We’re out here playing at the collegiate level, and sometimes you get away from how fun baseball is. A day like today is fun to teach kids fundamentals and get back to the roots of baseball being fun.”

Jim Gantt, head coach of Catawba College’s baseball team, said the student athletes enjoy hosting the camp as much as the kids enjoy participating in it.

“We’re all kids,” Gantt said. “They seem to have more fun. They’re a little bit nervous when they come. College students seem to have more fun with it.”

For Mitchem, teaching kids how to play baseball reminds him of when he started playing at age 5.

“When I was around their age, I went to a Catawba baseball camp,” Mitchem said. “I remember the players looking so big and older and how scary they were. It just brought me back to being a little kid again.”

Gantt said Mayors Play Ball can jump-start a kid’s love for baseball or softball.

“A lot of these guys and girls on the team, they came from the same places,” Gantt said. “For some reason, somebody got them a start with the sport and introduced it to them and fell in love with it and came to college to play and get your education.”

Gantt said this year’s participation was on the lower side, with six or seven players to a kid.

“It’s a great thing,” Gantt said. “I wish we could get more out here, more numbers out here. It is free. No obligation; just come have fun and learn the game. It was a good day.”

Mayors Play Ball is hosted by Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins and is part of the United States Conference of Mayors support of the Major League Baseball’s Play Ball Summer initiative. For more information, visit PlayBall.org.

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