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MLBPAA to host baseball camp

Organizers of the Second Annual Olan Cunningham Legends of Youth Baseball Camp are now accepting participants for this year’s camp, which this year will be held in Russellville Sept. 29.

The camp, which is hosted in conjunction with the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association and sponsored by Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, will be held at the Russellville High School Baseball Stadium from 9 a.m. until noon for students in first through 12th grades from Franklin, Colbert and Marion counties.

Russellville head baseball coach Chris Heaps said the camp will be accepting 50 young athletes from each county, and all 150 spots will be awarded on a first come, first served basis.

“This is a great opportunity for students in these three counties to have a chance to attend a camp they might not have otherwise been able to attend,” Heaps said. “Because of the sponsors, this camp is free for the participants, and we believe each one will learn a lot – not just about skills and techniques but about life, as well.”

Former MLB pitcher Randy McGilberry, who played for the Kansas City Royals, will attend the camp along with current MLB pitcher Donovan Hand, who pitched for the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds before becoming a free agent in 2017. Both McGilberry and Hand represent the MLBPAA.

“These camps are designed to come into communities and, in conjunction with the leadership there, provide an opportunity to hear from former players that were at one time kids with dreams too,” McGilberry said. “I have been instructing young players since 1986 and know that not every young player is cut out to play baseball at higher levels, but I was able to teach them fundamentals and teamwork and how important hard work and fundamentals are to be successful at anything in life.”

McGilberry said the Legends of Youth Baseball Camps, which are held across the country, are as much about life skills as they are about baseball fundamentals.

“The main thing to learn is that any person, individually or in a team setting, has a role to play in being successful,” he said. “It is similar to how the hands, eyes, ears, mouth, feet, legs and arms are all unique in their purpose in the human body; however, when working in unison, they can allow a person to be a successful doctor, lawyer, engineer, pilot, athlete, mechanic, plumber or anything they want to be.”

Also in attendance at this year’s camp will be members of the Governor’s Commission on Physical Fitness and Sports; local coaches and players who will be there to help with fundamentals and offer tips and advice; Morrow; and the camp’s namesake, Olan Cunningham.

“When I first talked to Randy McGilberry over a year ago about hosting a camp like this for these three counties, I knew I wanted to name it after Olan Cunningham, who was my football coach at Red Bay when I was the captain during the ’60-61 season,” Morrow said. “The reason for this is because I learned so much from him about team work, values, making good choices and so many other life lessons that translate well beyond the football field – things I still hold in high regard to this day.

“And that’s what these camps that the MLBPAA hosts are about.”

Morrow said he was impressed with last year’s camp and is looking forward to this year’s camp as well.

“Last year I watched as these kids received one-on-one time with these former big leaguers, and I saw how much it meant to them,” Morrow said. “They learned techniques that improved their game and learned lessons that will improve their lives.”

Those in Franklin County who are interested in participating can contact Heaps by text message at 256-345-0531 or email at chris.heaps@rcs.k12.al.us. Those in Colbert County can contact Troy Rutland by email at trutland@cherokeetel.net. Those in Marion County can contact Tony Shackelford by email at janeshack@live.com or by phone at 205-495-2564. Include the participant’s name, age and school they attend.

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