Only one thing could make 40 teenage boys run bases, catch grounders and practice their swing during a cold, wet November weekend in Stuttgart, Germany: the love of the game.
And the yells of encouragement from five college baseball coaches from the United States.
The coaches, who hail from California State University San Bernardino and Ohio State University, traveled to U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart to host the fourth annual baseball clinic Nov. 12-15 on Husky Field, Patch Barracks.
“It’s cool how they fly over here just to see us,” said Justin Phelps, 17, a Patch High School student.
By “us,” Phelps meant 13- to 18-year-old boys from Department of Defense Dependent schools in Belgium, Wiesbaden, Heidelberg, Ramstein, Vogelweh and Stuttgart, as well as local national students.
The clinic focuses on “excelled basics,” said Larry Tannenbaum, USAG Stuttgart Patch High School baseball coach. “Bunting, pitching, running, hitting — they bring it to a new level.”
The coaches also teach the finer points of the game.
“I learned about keeping your glove fingers down,” said Cavan Cohoes, 16, a new student to Patch High School from California.
“It’s cool to be with the coaches because it’s hard to get this kind of clinic over here,” he added.
Besides refining their techniques, the boys learned a few life lessons, too.
“Everything in baseball is basically how you handle failure,” said Pete Jenkins, Ohio State University assistant baseball coach. In basketball, three out of 10 free throws is a poor showing, but, in baseball, three out of 10 at-bats makes an All-Star,” he added.
“You fail 70 percent of the time. You gotta keep going,” Jenkins said.
By the end of the camp, Tannenbaum sees a difference in the students’ skill level. “You can bat a 400 in high school and that’s pretty good,” he said, “but, after working for five minutes with some of these guys, now you’re hitting 500.”
The coaches also conducted a smaller clinic Nov. 11 for girls and 10- to 12-year-old boys.
“We just love coming and helping these guys,” Jenkins said. “We’re thankful for what everyone does out here [in the military]. It’s nice to come and give back to the kids.”