January and February may be the depths of winter, but Pasadena Baseball Club and the Northeast baseball program see bright days on the horizon.
More than 120 Pasadena Baseball Club youth players have spent their Sundays in 2019 at the Northeast High School gym and athletic facilities churning through skill and training stations in preparation for the upcoming season.
Northeast has hosted the sessions for years and formerly held them for all intramural players and anyone in the PBC family. Beginning last year, however, PBC focused on getting exclusively the travel team players, as young as 8U and as old as 13U, to attend the sessions and fortify the pipeline leading to Northeast High School.
“When I went over as travel director at Pasadena, that’s when this camp started,” said Northeast varsity baseball coach Adam Bolling. “Essentially what we want to do with Pasadena is, we want those kids at a young age to want to be travel players, see the hat and the uniforms and be a part of what’s happening. The majority of these teams are kids right in the community, and they’re our future.”
They’re putting in the work to make the future an exciting one. On February 10, players broke into groups to run through an array of drills, all while taking advantage of Northeast’s excellent athletic facility. Two groups set up makeshift diamonds in the main gym. One diamond was devoted entirely to bunting. The opposite diamond focused on infield putouts, rundowns and base running. In the auxiliary gym, pitchers got reps from a matted indoor mound, throwing at a strike zone on the concrete wall. Catchers were off to the side with coach Al Kohlhafer, getting rapid-fire reps on every aspect of catching.
Jack Schreiber, a catcher with the PBC 12U Eagles, said he has taken huge strides forward this winter.
“It’s a lot of fun, and you learn a lot, definitely,” Schreiber said. “It’s fast-paced. There are a lot of skills you learn and a lot of reps. I definitely learned a lot.”
Over in the weight room, kids run through high-intensity intervals, weightlifting and strength training. Down the hall in the black box, a batting cage is set up, with kids getting live pitching to hit.
Bolling and the coaching staff split the kids into two sessions every Sunday, each session lasting for two-hours, and they get help from the varsity players, who run drills and coach up the younger players.
“I’ve helped out and shown them what I know about the sport so that they come up and be what we are now,” said Eagles varsity player Colby Sanders. “They’ve gotten a lot better as players, and they become better people too.”
As Sanders mentioned, the motivations for Bolling, the Eagles and Pasadena Baseball Club extend well beyond just baseball. Bolling sees the sessions as bonding opportunities for lifelong friends who will ultimately grow to become contributing members of the community.
“I was fortunate enough to be led by great men who mentored me at the right time in my life, so that’s what I’m trying to do too, is build a strong community,” said Bolling. “That’s our vision. I want these kids to have that luxury. For me it was Tom Caines, now our JV head coach, and I want those kids to have that. We want them off Fortnite and to grow up to be positive role models in the community. They’re the next business leaders, educators, fathers, so we want to make that strong.”
Bolling even sees baseball as a viable diversion from problems that have plagued Pasadena, namely the opioid epidemic.
“We’ve lost too many friends to the opioid epidemic,” he said. “I’ve laid too many friends to rest. So if we can influence them through baseball in a positive manner and use baseball as a platform to influence them positively in other aspects of life, that’s what we’re trying to do. It’s really a community approach.”
Of course, the groundwork will begin to pay dividends on the field too, as players age into high school and Northeast’s varsity program. Bolling said the Eagles’ 2-19 season of 2017 was an aberration they plan to never experience again due to the strengthening ties of Pasadena Baseball Club.
“Stemming from that 2-19 season, I don’t want that to ever happen again,” said Bolling. “That wasn’t a lack of baseball, that was a lack of team chemistry. So if we can go back and make these kids best friends for life, that’s what we’re doing. The majority of these teams are kids right in the community, and they’re our future. My 12U team, just about all these guys are going to be Northeast High School guys. We’re going to be strong, and it’s going to continue to build and be strong from within.”