Kids who attend a Lancaster Barnstormers summer baseball camp or clinic may face more challenges than hitting a curveball or turning a double play. They may be challenged to give up electronics or soda, or maybe even read a book.
“We’re just reinforcing what’s being taught at home, or if it’s not being taught at home we’re planting the seed,” says Troy Steffy, the Barnstormers director of baseball operations. “It’s more than baseball here.”
Baseball, after all, is more than just a game, Steffy says. It can be a vehicle to accomplish things that are far more important than wins and losses.
As a professional ball club, the Barnstormers are all about the game when they’re on the field. But as a member of the community, they want to have an impact off the field, too – and one natural way to do that is through youth baseball.
That’s why the Barnstormers are making a renewed push to not only bring more youth programming to Clipper Magazine Stadium, but also to bring the resources of the team to youth baseball and softball programs around the county and beyond.
“We’re the professional baseball team in Lancaster County, so we should be that asset to youth programs,” Steffy says.
That could mean anything from helping a coaching staff evaluate players and holding an onsite clinic to helping a team improve field conditions or acquire equipment and uniforms.
Barnstormers players routinely attend Lancaster Rec Commission games to support the young players. The team is also hosting an upcoming Discover Softball Day for a youth organization in Chester County where softball interest has been on the decline.
“What do you want to see your son or daughter get to do and how can we make that happen?” says Andrew Spanos, business development specialist for the Barnstormers. “We’ve had (Barnstormers) players go to youth baseball practices. We just want to create these memories for these kids … Youth baseball players are the future of baseball.
“If we can get one kid in every organization to love baseball a little bit more … that’s what we want to do,” Spanos says.
After all, a love of the game can be the starting point for so much more.
In July, the Barnstormers will host a group of 10-year-olds from China for a special camp to teach them the game of baseball. It’s a program Steffy began while he was director of baseball operations at Spooky Nook Sports. The young Chinese ballplayers will have two-a-day practices, shadow stadium staff – from ticket takers to the video crew, and enjoy big league treatment in the clubhouse. The camp will culminate with a game against a local youth team
“It’s really cool watching the two cultures come together,” Steffy says. “At the end of the day, baseball is going to be over. We’re just using baseball as a vehicle to learn about cultures.”
Also this summer, the Barnstormers will host youth baseball clinics July 23-25 and Aug. 6-8, and evening youth baseball clinics July 1-2 and Aug 12-13. All camps are currently for 7- to 13-year-olds, although the Barnstormers are also working on a T-ball program for 3- to 6-year-olds. The camps and clinics offer the added thrill of playing on the field at Clipper Magazine Stadium.
“We take it for granted when we walk on that field,” Steffy says. “But the kids and parents, they get so excited when they go on that field.”
Parents also appreciate the extra challenges of those camps, like reading or giving up electronics, as well as the fact that counselors spend part of the last camp day discussing how campers met those challenges and the importance of making good choices.
“We’re bringing back the family values through baseball. It’s something I think has gotten lost,” Steffy says.
To that end, the Barnstormers will also host a Father & Son Baseball Camp July 13-14. Mothers, daughters and grandparents are welcome, too. It’s all about bonding through baseball.
“The vehicle that we’re using is baseball, but bringing the family together is what we’re aiming for,” Steffy says.
And that’s not just the individual families that participate in the camps and clinics. For the Barnstormers, family is much bigger than that.
“We just want to be involved in the community as much as we can. It’s about helping keep baseball in Lancaster,” Spanos says. “We want everyone to be a part of our family.”