SUMMERSIDE – Over 60 local minor baseball players had the opportunity to learn from one of the game’s best shortstops on Monday.
The Tony Fernandez Baseball Camp 2014 attracted players in pony through bantam divisions from the Summerside, Bedeque and Richmond associations.
“It was good and he’s (Fernández) really helpful,” said 11-year-old Jackson MacDougall, a shortstop with the Summerside peewee AA team. “It’s really fun.”
Fernández is a five-time Major League Baseball (MLB) all-star and winner of four consecutive Gold Gloves from 1986 to 89. He broke into MLB in 1983 with the Toronto Blue Jays, the same team he retired with in 2001. He also played with the San Diego Padres, New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Milwaukee Brewers.
The camp had stations for fielding, throwing, pitching and hitting set up on all three fields at Queen Elizabeth Park. Members of the Summerside midget team, along with Baseball P.E.I. officials and volunteer coaches also served as instructors.
“The kids are having fun, and that’s what is important,” said Fernández, who had a career. 288 regular-season and a .327 post-season batting average in 2,158 games played. “As you teach you enjoy also having fun with those kids. If they enjoy it, you enjoy it.”
Fernández talked about the importance of stressing fundamentals.
“If you don’t teach them the right way now, they are going to have trouble in the future,” said Fernández in an interview with the Journal Pioneer.
For example, a lot of time was committed to players working on proper footwork while playing defence.
“If you have good footwork, hands are going to work,” said Fernández, a member of the Blue Jays Level of Excellence. “If you move your feet right, hands are going to move. . .
“If you don’t move the feet, you are going to be lazy. Your hands will want to take over, so you have to start thinking with your feet, just like a soccer player.”
When asked what he was learning at the camp, MacDougall said: “How to properly field, and how to play the outfield. . . How to play the ball on the backhand, and how to play it properly on the forehand.”
Pick up pointers
It just wasn’t the camp participants, however, who were learning new things.
“He (Fernández) taught us about a triangle thing,” said Matt Barlow, who plays with the P.E.I. Youth Selects and one of the Summerside midget teams. “There are three kinds of ground balls – a ball in front of you, a ball to your left and a ball to your right.
“I learned how to cross over, which is stepping with your inside foot. I never knew that before, and was never taught that. I definitely picked up some new stuff today (Monday).”
Barlow called it “an honour” to assist Fernández.
“I looked up some of his YouTube videos before I came, and he was pretty slick on the infield,” said Barlow. “It’s an honour just to help him out and teach the same kids he is teaching, and have him telling you what to do.”
When asked what the best thing of attending the camp was, MacDougall commented, “To be able to see Tony Fernández.”