It was difficult to tell who was having more fun at the Blue Springs High School Wildcats Baseball Camp – the high school staffers or campers.
“I know I’m having as much fun as any of the campers,” said Blue Springs graduate Peyton Smith, one of the premier pitchers in the metro area. “When I was a little kid, I went to the camp and remember how cool it was working with Tep (Blue Springs grad and future major leaguer Nick Tepesch).
“I was thinking how cool the high school players were and how nice they were and that’s what I’d like the campers this year to think about us.”
No worries, as the campers raved about their high school heroes.
“I can’t believe we got to play with the high school guys,” said 10-year-old Bennett Omstead, who attends Matthews Elementary School in Grain Valley. “It was so cool. And it was cool to eat pizza with them today. That’s one of the best parts – pizza!”
Aaron Reeves, 11, felt the same way.
“We learned a lot from the high school players,” said Reeves, who attends Oak Grove Middle School. “I worked with Caleb Marquez and he’s going to be in the major leagues someday, so that was really cool. So was the pizza.”
Teagen Heiter, 10, believes he is a better player today than when the camp started.
“We could mess around and have fun,” said Heiter, who attends Brittany Hills Middle School, “but we learned a lot while we were having fun. Those guys are good players and good teachers. We learned so much this week.”
And that’s what Blue Springs coach Tim McElligott wanted to hear.
“I want the campers and our players to have fun and we want the kids to learn something, too,” McElligott said. “We’ve been doing this camp as long as I can remember. It used to be called the Future Wildcats Camp, but we quit calling it that because we have kids from all around Eastern Jackson County.
“I think our guys know how important this camp is to the youngsters and they go out of their way to make sure the campers have a lot of fun.”
No one was having more fun Wednesday morning than Tim Pace, owner of Tim’s Pizza, who has been feeding the campers on the final day of camp for more than a decade.
“If it has something to do with kids, we want to be included,” Pace said. “Tim (McElligott) is a friend and a coach who does things the right way. Anytime we can do something with Tim or be associated with his team, we want to do it.”
The camp is so much fun, there were even a couple of players from Blue Springs South on hand for the festivities, Brady Strickert and Dustin Brewer.
“I remember how much fun I had at camps when I was a little kid,” said Brewer, a second baseman for the Jaguars, who finished third in the Class 5 state tournament recently.
“When I got the text from Coach McElligott, I said, ‘Yes,’ and couldn’t wait to work with the campers.”
Brewer’s longtime friend and reigning Examiner Player of the year, Jake Lufft, agreed.
“I went to this camp when I was a kid, and one year my older brother (Jeremy) was one of the players and that was a great memory for me,” Lufft said. “I guarantee you our players have as much as the campers. We want them to learn something, but we also want them to have fun - a lot of fun!”
But maybe the coach’s son best summed up with camp when 10-year-old Connor McElligott said, “There is no pressure at the camp – for my dad’s high school players or the campers. We just have fun. We learn a lot, but we have a lot of fun, too.”