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Baseball: Summer camp in full swing at Gerstell

As Falcons Summer Baseball School campers took a midday break on Wednesday, it gave Cap Poklemba some time to reflect.

The varsity baseball coach at Gerstell Academy started the program half a decade ago. And from a handful of kids in the beginning, to now hosting the second straight year of his summer camp, Poklemba said the progression has been amazing to see.

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“If you would’ve looked at our program and where we were and said, ‘Five years from now you’re going to be competing with some of the best schools in the MIAA,’ I’d have said you were crazy,” he said.

More than 20 players, ages 7-14, are taking part in the week-long camp at Gerstell. The daily itinerary consists of a morning and afternoon session and starts up at 9 a.m. and finishes around 3 p.m.

Campers are split into two age groups, minors and majors. They take part in a range of activities throughout the day that includes instructional demo and activity drills in the morning, to infield, outfield, pitching, and hitting skill development, as well as games, in the afternoon.

It’s a mix of learning and application throughout the week. And with a range of newcomers to experienced players, Poklemba underlined the importance of development for every camper.

“I talked to the kids at the very beginning of the week said, ‘Look, you guys are all here together, we’re all starting at different points and the idea is each one of you to get a little bit better every single day,’ ” Poklemba said. “I expect them to have at least one thing they’ve learned new every day. Ideally, they learn 10, 12, 15 things.”

One of the things Poklemba said he hopes campers learn is repetition, a skill extremely important in any sport.

“The more you do something, the more your body learns how to do it correctly and then you stop thinking about it,” he said. “We’re finally starting to get some kids you can see are no longer thinking and they are reacting and their bodies reacting and they’re doing the right thing now.”

Helping alongside Poklemba are current and former Gerstell baseball players. A familiar face was also present during the first two days before heading out of town — Al Poklemba, Cap’s father. He’s a veteran of the game, with 37 years of baseball coaching experience, including 15 as the head coach at McDonogh School in Owings Mills.

“It’s awesome, it’s awesome,” Cap Poklemba said on coaching the camp with his dad. “I always wanted to do what he did so I became an athletic director like him, I’m a head baseball coach like he was, I started a program [at Gerstell] like he did at Glenelg Country School. … I’ve really kind of followed in his footsteps and it’s always fun to get out and work with him a little bit and pick his brain.”

Among the campers in attendance this week are Colt Gingher and Aiden O’Bryant. Colt, a fourth-grader at Gerstell, gave no hesitation when asked why he wanted to be here this week.

“Baseball is my favorite sport,” Colt said. “I show a lot of passion for it.”

Noah Stratchko, 7, of Hampstead practices hitting during baseball camp at Gerstell Academy on Wednesday, June 27, 2018.
Noah Stratchko, 7, of Hampstead practices hitting during baseball camp at Gerstell Academy on Wednesday, June 27, 2018. (Jen Rynda / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Aiden echoed similar praises when asked about his camp experience so far.

“I’m progressing and getting more and more information,” said the rising seventh-grader at Shiloh Middle School. “I really like the coaches, I like learning new things, I like the activities that we did. It’s really fun.”

Both spent their break shooting hoops in Gerstell’s gymnasium along with fellow campers.

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Gerstell has a student body of 415 from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, a significantly smaller number compared to the public schools in Carroll County. But as the baseball program continues to grow, Poklemba said he’ll begin to focus more on recruiting, and the camp helps with that.

However, through it all, he said his favorite part of camp still remains being around the kids.

“I love to teach, I love to coach,” Poklemba said. “It’s my passion so to be able to do that in the summer and pass on something, my love of baseball to these younger kids is something I really, really, enjoy.”

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