Michael McKenry spent seven seasons as a catcher in the Major Leagues.
Suffice to say, he knows a thing or two about playing the position.
The former Colorado Rockie, Pittsburgh Pirate and St. Louis Cardinal is actually coming to the Ohio Valley to host a catcher’s camp through ‘Foundations Baseball’ on Sunday, Jan. 24 at the Highlands Sports Complex.
The camp will be held in two sessions. Kids aged 9-12 will run from 9 a.m. until noon and the 13 year olds through high school-aged players will run from noon until 3.
The cost of the camp is $100 per athlete and it includes a t-shirt.
“When you put on a camp like this, you assume you’re going to get something for your money and we’re bringing in a guy with several years of Major League experience,” Foundations Baseball founder and camp director Doug Costain said.
Along with McKenry, eight-year Major League player Alex Presley will be on hand as well as former West Virginia University catcher Chas Illig, who is currently a part of the New York Yankees farm system after being drafted in the 29th round of 2019 draft.
“We are very excited about the staff we have coming in,” Costain said.
There are many different camps held for baseball, but this is believed to be the first focusing on catching. It’s actually something that Costain has been thinking about trying to orchestrate for several years.
“About five or six years ago, I was talking to the late Jamie Conlan, who was the head coach at Wheeling Central, about trying to have an event, but it just never came to fruition,” Costain said. “Things like date, location and things were issues we were having trouble sorting out.”
However, when the Highlands Sports Complex officially opened late August, the idea came back to Costain once again.
“We see this as an opportunity,” Costain said. “Finding catchers can be difficult. I would say when I started playing baseball, catching was kind of an afterthought. It’s a position that’s gone from not very athletic to maybe the most athletic player on the field.”
Proceeds of the event will go right back into Foundations Baseball, which also sponsors weekly youth camps during the fall at the Chambers I-470 Complex.
“We’re not running this as a fundraiser for anyone,” Costain said. “We’re going to invest everything back into the kids. We’re just trying to provide a service.”
Foundations Baseball has partnered with the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference and will present a $250 scholarship to an individual, who attended the camp, at the Banquet of Champions in May.
“Parterning with the OVAC brings credibility to the program,” Costain said. “We have the players — present and future — of the OVAC in mind with this type of event.”
Not all of the details of the scholarship have been finalized.
“There will be an application process, but more details will be coming on that in the coming weeks and months,” Costain said.
Along with the camp and t-shirt, there will be several “giveaways” during the day of equipment and different door prizes. One camper will win a complete catching ensemble.
According to Costain, the camp is open to baseball and softball players because the “skillsets and drills transcend to both (baseball and softball).”
“When you talk about things like blocking balls and throwing technique, they all work hand in hand,” Costain said. “So far, we do have some females signed up, so we’re excited about that.”
Costain also has offered an open invitation to area high school and youth coaches to come to the camp. And depending upon demand, he is thinking about offering a question and answer for area coaches along with the clinicians.
Obviously, in the current health climate the world is in, Costain stresses that the camp will be held safely under the guidelines and protocols established by Ohio County Health Department and the Highlands Sports Complex.
“We’re at the mercy of the facility and the facility is OK with hosting the event,” Costain said. “Kids will have to wear a mask into the facility and the coaches will have to wear one, but when kids are participating in drills and whatnot, they will not have to wear a mask.”
More information on the camp can be found at wheelingbaseball.com