Cabarrus

Take a lesson from the pros

The timing being as it is, next weekend's Winter Sessions Professional Baseball Camp at Kannapolis' Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium just might be a "Pros vs. Snows" affair.

Coordinated and directed by several minor-league baseball players with local roots, the camp's design puts an emphasis on youth receiving instruction from working professionals. The camp is scheduled for Jan. 8-9.

With spring training for the pros beginning as early as next month, instructors are hoping for a big turnout and a little cooperation from Mother Nature, whose recent December temperatures haven't conjured many thoughts of summertime baseball.

Among the local players conceiving the idea for the camp were Kannapolis Intimidators second baseman and South Rowan graduate Daniel Wagner and Kannapolis A.L. Brown alums Ryan Query (catcher, Rome Braves) and Garrett Sherrill (pitcher, Lake County Fielders).

Chris Ahearn, a Charlotte native and a former teammate of Query's at Catawba College, was also instrumental in bringing the camp idea to fruition. He is a shortstop in the San Diego Padres farm system.

Other instructors will be 2002 A.L. Brown graduate Zach Ward, who was Sherrill's Lake County teammate last year, and Thomasville's David Thomas, another former Catawba player who is an outfielder in the Oakland A's system.

Between the six players, all who are in their early- to mid-20s, they bring more than 600 games of minor-league experience with them. They say the camp's team of instructors represent such a wide array of positions and areas of expertise that participants will get all their bases covered.

The network that brought them together, though, started to develop well before their professional playing days began.

About 10 years ago, Wagner, Query and Sherrill played for the same AAU team, the Carolina Mariners, which produced five players who eventually played pro ball.

The three played with, or against, each other in high school with Query and Sherrill graduating in 2005 and Wagner leaving a year later.

As off-season training partners, Wagner, Query, Sherrill and Ahearn started bouncing around the idea of a camp last year. After Wagner spent the entire 2010 season with Kannapolis, the Chicago White Sox low Class A affiliate, the Intimidators offered to host the camp.

"We talked about how, when we were young," said Wagner. "... we never had the opportunity to play with a professional coach or a professional player. Helping some of the kids from the area, spreading the knowledge that we've gained, I think it's great giving kids an opportunity that we didn't have."

The Intimidators host a youth baseball camp during their summer season with the help of a Concord baseball facility (Core Athletics). Intimidators players help serve as the instructors.

The Winter Sessions Camp is open to players age 9 and up and will be divided into two sessions. Session 1 will be for ages 9-12 and will run from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. each day. Session 2, for 13-year-olds and older, will be 2-4:30 p.m.

Registration costs $120 and includes a camp T-shirt and two tickets to the Intimidators' opening game on April 15. Camp awards will include paraphernalia autographed by the camp instructors.

It's not unusual for minor-league players to pick up part-time jobs during the off season to supplement their baseball income, and working at camps is a prime example.

Ward and Ahearn provide their services as private coaches to baseball-centric facilities in Concord and Salisbury, respectively.

Sherrill and Query, on the other hand, work as substitute school teachers. Query recently talked about applying skills from both his jobs to what he'll do at the camp.

"What we really want to do is teach kids how to play the right way," said Query. "Sometimes (players) they see on TV aren't very good role models. Growing up, we were taught to play the game hard, the way it's supposed to be played."

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