WHEELING - The future boys and girls of summer took to the J.B. Chambers I-470 Complex on Tuesday morning for a heavy dose of fun and learning around the diamond during the first day of the annual Wheeling Recreation Department Summer Camps.
The weather was perfect as Wheeling Post 1 manager Tom Pasco led the baseball camp, while Wheeling Jesuit softball coach James Walker conducted the drills for the girls on Lisa's Field and Ben's Field.
With kids ranging from ages 4-12, more than 200 kids - more than 100 in each baseball and softball - brought their gloves and bats to learn more about the game.
Former Wheeling Park and current West Liberty University standout Angela Johnson, in back, shows campers how to bunt during the first day of the annual Wheeling Recreation Department Summer Camps at Lisa’s Field.
''We were real pleased with the attendance,'' Wheeling Rec director Tom Bechtel said. ''We have been running these camps for 30 years and we used to have real good attendance, back before the economy took a hit and there were more activities for kids to do. This is one of our better attendances in years.
''I hope that these kids leave here with a better appreciation of the game. I hope they like the game a little bit better than when they showed up Tuesday. It's four days and when they leave Friday, they feel better about the game. And hopefully, they picked up some fundamentals, especially the little tikes. These kids have a lot of years to play the game.''
For a baseball fanatic like Pasco, it is just another way to spread his knowledge of the game.
''We had a great turnout and they are listening and having fun and paying attention to everything we are trying to get them to do,'' Pasco said. ''One of the biggest things we want to convey is to pay attention and be a student of the game.
''We break up into groups and try to teach the older kids a little more detail. The younger kids, just giving them the basics and hopefully they can walk out of here with at least one new skill a day.''
The baseball portion features all you would expect to learn from a veteran manager - throwing and catching, fielding, hitting, skill drills. Pasco, whose 4-year-old son Gatlin is among the campers, also plans on having a home run derby and playing some games at the end of every session, trying to build an equal amount of teaching and fun.
But even a veteran manager like Pasco can't manage 100 kids at a time so he brought along his Post 1 squad.
''They enjoy it and it helps me a lot to have some baseball-minded guys here,'' Pasco said. ''The little ones like my little guy, they look up to them and they are like big league ballplayers to some of these kids.''
On the softball fields, Walker hopes to teach the girls much of the same.
The kids spent Tuesday morning being timed running the bases, hitting off a tee, and learning the proper techniques on swinging a bat and bunting.
''We are going to teach them fundamentals all week,'' Walker said. ''We figure if you teach them when they are 8, come college they still have them.
''Having fun, though, is the most important thing, especially with the younger ones. We want to keep them interested in the game. We are playing Duck, Duck, Goose with some of the younger kids and helping them make friends. It's more about that than it is learning to win softball games.
''The Wheeling Rec does such a good job of promoting this and the kids have such a great complex to play at. I'd bring my daughter if we lived closer.''
Like Pasco, Walker has his own group of helpers, including his Cardinals assistant coaches, some incoming WJU freshmen, and West Liberty's Angela Johnson, a former standout at Wheeling Park.
''It is nice to see some local players give back to the community,'' Walker said.