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Baseball Camp Participants Ignore Bad Weather
There was bright sunshine for the baseball camp's first day on Monday, Dec. 29 but it was foggy and cold by its third and last day on Wednesday, Dec. 31.

"People must think those kids out there are crazy playing baseball in the fog. But they're having a great time and so are we," said coach Chris Butterfield of this year's Eric Bell's Professional School of Baseball Holiday Camp at Rainbow Fields.

Butterfield explained he was standing in for Bell, a 15 year pro ballplayer and former pitcher from Beyer High School, who was running another camp during the same period.

The ninth annual clinic conducted at the Rainbow Fields complex located just south of Riverbank drew about 25 children eager to learn the finer points of the game under the instruction of half a dozen coaches drawn from other local past and present players.

The numbers of participants was down from the usual 40 or so each year. This was possibly due to the current poor economy. The fee for 15 hours of instruction spread over the three days was $150.

But the youths came from a wide area, Sonora, Merced and even Los Banos besides the local cities of Modesto, Riverbank, Oakdale and Escalon.

Practicing strokes in the indoor batting cage with the other older participants, Austin Slayday, 16, of Los Banos was making a two-hour trip one-way each day to participate in the clinic for the first time.

Outdoors, the younger children had enough numbers to play several games with coaches pitching and teaching the proper techniques for running of bases and parents were applauding from the sidelines.

One parent from Modesto had two of her children, Frankie Calderon, 12 and the younger Jasmine Calderon, on the field together with Jasmine apparently the only girl out there swinging a bat.

One fielder was hit hard on the shin by a ball and carried from the field by a coach. The injured player turned out to be Butterfield's son of the same name. The boy was in pain but recovering quickly as his father came over to the dugout to help ... and after some rest was back in the game.

Goal of the three-day clinic is to get youngsters thinking about the game, giving them the fundamentals to get started on what hopefully will be a lifelong love of the sport.