Thompson baseball builds community through annual kids camp

Published 4:40 pm Friday, June 2, 2023

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

ALABASTER – As Thompson baseball coach Frankie Perez looked on at the more than 100 campers at the Thompson Baseball Camp learning from and bonding with his players, he was okay that he was running concessions and focused on the administrative aspects of the camp.

“The kids probably want to hang out with them more than they want to see the coaches anyway,” coach Perez said. “They’re like their idols.”

Over the three days at the camp, kids from ages 5-12 learned baseball skills from Thompson players and built friendships with them.

For coach Perez, even though those relationships are even more important than anything they learned over the course of the week.

“To say that you’re going to teach a kid to play baseball in three days is silly,” coach Perez said. “It’s not realistic. It’s about creating connections and creating memories and I think we did just that.”

He was impressed with how quickly the players and kids learned each other’s names and built genuine relationships.

“I guess that just shows the connection that we continue to create amongst the community, you know, that they knew the players’ names and the players knew the campers’ names,” coach Perez said. “So, every time that you get teenage boys and young boys, all of them to connect, I think it’s pretty cool.”

It’s those relationships that make the camp so important to coach Perez, who sees value in building a sense of community around the team throughout the city of Alabaster.

“You can’t have a program without it,” coach Perez said of the camp. “This is one of the most important things that we do every year without a doubt.”

Coach Perez also pointed to Little Warrior Nights during the season and fall city tryouts as other ways that Thompson has prioritized getting the next generation involved in the program.

He sees these campers as the future of Thompson baseball and hopes parents help their kids chase that dream of playing high school baseball.

“I want the parents to be excited that their kids hopefully one day get to wear our varsity jersey,” coach Perez said. “I want when we go to the Final Four, everybody is happy, and when we get beat, everybody feels our pain because we are one big family.”

It takes a village to build that family culture in coach Perez’s eyes. From the head coach to the assistants to the players and parents, he wants everyone to feel involved in the future of Thompson baseball so the parent-coach relationships don’t become toxic and they can cherish the Warriors victories together.

“Alabaster, even though we’re a big city, we’re still a small-town atmosphere, I feel like. It’s a small community. Everybody knows everybody. So, when they see the positive atmosphere and how the culture is so positive in the high school, it gets those youth parents excited that their kids can spend three days with us.”

Part of that culture comes from the players, who taught the campers for most of the week. They passed along the skills and lessons that coach Perez taught them and that took them to the state semifinals last month.

Coach Perez sees this as a positive because his players being able to teach others shows that they truly understand what the Thompson coaching staff taught them all season.

“If you can teach it, that means that you know it,” coach Perez said. “It means that our players know our terminology and how we want to teach things.”

That is something positive that Thompson will take into summer practices and workouts, which begin this month.

But for the families at the camp, they got to meet their heroes on the diamond and pick up a few skills along the way to help them achieve their dreams of taking the field for the Warriors in a few short years.