Participants of the Hitters Count Summer Baseball clinic take turns running the bases Wednesday Morning in Westbrook (SAM BONSEY/Journal Tribune)

WESTBROOK — The Hitters Count Youth Baseball Summer Camp is more than just a clinic for young ballplayers looking to improve their skills on the diamond.

For Jason Lariviere, the owner and operator of Hitters Count in Saco and the head coach of the Thornton Academy varsity baseball team, the four-day camp offers a fun experience for everyone involved. 

“It’s a mixture between skill building and having fun,” Lariviere said. “The program is traditionally pretty fun for the players …  It gives them the chance to show off their talents and have an enjoyable experience at the same time.” 

The program, which is geared toward 8 to 12-year-old athletes, opened Tuesday at the Westbrook Little League complex. Camp runs through Friday and there’s a lot of baseball in between.  

Members of the Southern Maine River Rats, a travel baseball team based out of Saco consisting of high school players, teach the basics such as fielding, hitting, base running and bunting to the campers each morning. 

Campers also test their knowledge of the River Rats and the game of baseball with a daily trivia contest at the Westbrook Community Center. 

 “First and foremost, they’re learning the fundamentals,” said Colton Lawrence, the lead instructor and assistant coach for the U16 River Rats squad. “But, we have fun activities for them, as well.” 

At the end of each day, players test their abilities in intrasquad scrimmages. In between practices and class instruction, however, players have time to separate themselves from the baseball aspect of the program and enjoy time together. Activities include an open swim period for an hour and open gym, where players have free reign to participate in other sports.

About 25 kids participated in this year’s version of The Hitters Count Youth Baseball Summer Camp, a bit less than the usual number of campers. Lariviere attributes the dip to a gauntlet of a baseball season that has left many families looking for a brief hiatus. 

“We’ve noticed lately that a lot of families are prioritizing August to be the month they go on vacation,” he said. “That’s because baseball families typically have baseball things going on all summer … After finishing all of that, they want to take some time to refresh.”

Even though the turnout diminished slightly this year, Lariviere thinks the activities they implement combined with what the players learn on the field separates the program. The balance of practicing baseball and providing the “fun opportunities” throughout the day, he said, has been beneficial. 

“They’re not just at the baseball field all day,” Lariviere said. “They do learn a lot of stuff, a lot of skill-building, but at the same time, they get to have fun. I think that’s the intent of the camp.”  

Lawrence is heading into his senior year at the University of Southern Maine, and he first started working with Lariviere after he reached out to the coach two years ago. Lawrence was looking to find an opportunity to get coaching experience, and Lariviere asked Lawrence to be an assistant for the program. Lawrence jumped at the opportunity.

“(Being an assistant) has been perfect,” Lawrence said. “I’ve worked my way up and I hope to get a head (coaching) job next summer … It’s awesome.”

 Lawrence appeared in 23 games for Southern Maine as a relief pitcher and finished 4-0 with 2.25 ERA during his junior season. He said his mentorship with the players has progressed since he started.

“For me, my communication (with the players) has definitely improved,” Lawrence said. “But, baseball is baseball, and that’s been easy to get across.”

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: