August 07, 2013 - By Katelyn Winkler
Review Staff Writer
Triple crown winner and Detroit Tiger Miguel Cabrera, teamed up with ProCamp Worldwide to create a once in a lifetime experience for 365 boys and girls at Lake Orion High School last week.
Not only did this baseball camp give athletes, grades one through eight, the chance to meet and interact with a professional player, but every child left with a limited edition Cabrera baseball ProCamp t-shirt and an exclusive autographed camp team photo (taken with Cabrera). The $129 cost covered three and half-hours of catching, throwing and batting skills taught by coaches, numerous games, a "fastest runner" competition at the end and a lunch provided by G's Pizza.
During his interaction with the kids, Cabrera was all smiles and urged the younger boys and girls just starting out to keep it simple.
"Have fun, go out there and play like a little kid with no pressure," Cabrera said. "Listen to your coach," he added.
At the beginning of the program starstruck kids were picked from the crowd to ask Cabrera a question.
Fourth grader Marcus Vizzaccaro from Oxford asked him how many home runs he hit, and found out "way more than 300."
Clinton Township Colin Miller said he "froze" when he found out he was going to see Miguel Cabrera. He asked him if he was better than Prince Fielder, to which Cabrera said "Yes."
Other kids won baseballs and jerseys, given to them by Cabrera himself after he signed them.
"You get the chance to meet your idol. I know as a kid growing up there was nothing like this," Indiana University assistant baseball coach and Director of ProCamps Rodger Rodeheaver said. "The only chance you ever had was by the railing of a game or, if your parents were fortunate enough to go down to spring training and get autographs. [Kids were] able to have Miguel slap-five and get an autograph from him; that just an opportunity I never had as a kid."
According to Rodeheaver, the Cabrera ProCamp will be the only baseball camp that was hosted in Michigan this year.
"Look at the facility; it's beautiful. They want us. It's important to go to facilities that want us here. They've exceeded our expectations. The fact that they manicured the fields shows that they went above and beyond to welcome us," Andy Danner, Chief Operations Officer of ProCamps, said.
ProCamps organize baseball, basketball, hockey, golf and football camps around the world, working with pro athletes in every sport. For baseball camps, the coaches work with the children to establish their pitching, catching and batting skills.
"We want to teach them fundamentals. This is something that we do back at [Indiana University]. We hit little plastic wiffle balls everyday as hitters and go through the stance and stride and fielding techniques. The neat thing about baseball is it never changes," Rodeheaver said. "You can't reinvent the wheel, so to speak, because it's the same fundamentals to field a ground ball, throw a strike and hit a baseball. There are certain things that have to be in order to do that. I think that if kids see this and hear that Miguel does this stuff, it stands with these kids."
ProCamps worked with the Big Brother Big Sister organization and granted 25 at-risk youth, in the Metropolitan Detroit area, the chance to attend the Cabrera camp for free.
"They showed up today without a glove or a bat but the opportunity to put a smile on their face, meet their hero for a few hours. That's something these kids will take with them for the rest of their lives. To say 'I was at this camp and got his autograph and he shook my hand'. That's priceless," Rodeheaver said.
Although Cabrera had to leave ProCamps early to attend rehab therapy for his hip injury, he was still able to put smiles on children's faces, sign helmets, baseballs and jerseys for the silent auctions and take pictures with the kids.
Before leaving Lake Orion, Cabrera told the young athletes that no matter what, make sure you are having fun playing the game and don't let the pressures get to you. It's all about fun.
Cabrera tweeted a few hours after leaving the camp thanking the kids, parents and sponsors for attending his ProCamps.
Joey Neering, a six year old Lake Orion camper expressed he was having fun at the camp and learning skills from the coaches, not to mention be able to see Cabrera.
"It was awesome. He's my favorite," Neering said. "Every time he bats daddy tells me because I watch him."
When it was time for the kids to leave LOHS and go back home, the youth left with a goodie bag and a smile on their faces.
Whether the campers and their families lived right down the street or flew from Alabama for the chance to meet and work with Cabrera, the youth players, and their families, left satisfied.
"They're still at that age where they're not sure if they even like baseball and some of them, their parents put them in baseball," Rodeheaver said. "Just have fun. Life's too short. It's a game at the end of the day. It's a game that is the same for a six year old or a thirty year old, in [Cabrera's] case."