Ripkens reach kids, coaches


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Ripken Baseball Camps are designed to reach kids, teaching them the fundamentals of the game. Even the coaches’ clinics, where kids won’t be in attendance, are still meant for that audience.

“You reach more kids [at the coaches clinics],” said former Major Leaguer Bill Ripken. “If you have 200 coaches and they each have 12 guys … you’ve reached a boatload of kids.”

One of those clinics comes to Forest Park on Sunday, when Bill Ripken, his brother Cal, and John Habyan meet with coaches to share their view of baseball and how the game is played.

When dealing with kids, the emphasis is usually on fundamentals. After Bill and Cal Ripken spent a combined 39 years in the Major Leagues — and their father, Cal Ripken, Sr., spent nearly that many as a player, coach and manager — fundamentals are a strong point.

As important as the fundamentals are, the reasons behind them are just as important, Bill Ripken explained. In baseball, there are several ways to accomplish the same task, so he keeps himself open to new ways of approaching different skills.

“There’s a constant tweaking of the individual program,” Ripken said.

In the week before Sunday’s clinic, Ripken spent much of his time with Ripken Baseball’s Winter Indoor Clinic, a three-day-a-week afterschool session with young players. Those sessions, he said, will help when the coaches clinic comes around on the weekend.

Although the players undoubtedly learn more from their instructors, the learning does work both ways. In addition to finding new approaches to different skills, Ripken better learns how to articulate the message he’s trying to get across.

“What I learn is another way of saying something,” Ripken said. “If I explain something to 10 kids, nine might shake their head, so I might figure out a way to explain it so the light goes off in the other kid’s head.”

And the emphasis on fundamentals only goes so far. When the strict teaching of fundamentals interferes with a player’s natural ability, then it’s time to lay off a bit.

“We take a basic, fundamental approach to every player. We put it in a frame, and tweak it to the individual,” Ripken said. “You won’t find two hitters who are exactly alike. There are similar things, but if the watch the highlights at 11 p.m. and see 30 reels, 30 different hitters and 30 different swings. We celebrate the individual. We give them a basis to work from, but we never try to clone an individual.”

Sunday’s clinic had been rescheduled from last month because of the winter’s biggest snowstorm. But slots for the clinic are still available, and walk-up registrations will be accepted. The cost for the clinic is $150.

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