The next generation of Avon Lake baseball and softball players took to the fields at Weiss Field on July 21 as a part of the first annual Avon Lake Summer Classic.
The idea came from Avon Lake head baseball coach Andrew Means, who said it popped into his head while he was driving. Means then reached out to the city’s recreation department and Avon Lake softball coach Jana Peachman who helped make the idea a reality.
“I was trying to think what we could do to bring all of the kids in Avon Lake together, whether they’re on a travel team or a rec team,” Means said. “I let the city know what I was thinking and they were fully supportive of the idea.”
According to Means, the event had over 140 signups. Attendees were split up into teams based on grade level and those teams were coached by current — and former — Avon Lake baseball and softball players.
The player-coaches ranged from recent Avon Lake graduates to incoming freshmen baseball players. Means and Peachman gave them guidelines like practice plans, but for the most part, the players were responsible for running their players through drills.
“I put together a general practice plan for each team and each level, but I told the guys it’s their team. I want them to go out there and have fun and that’s the most important thing, I just want everyone to have fun.”
Means hopes that the event inspires both his current and future players to be role models.
“It gives them a unique opportunity to be a coach of a team and be around the kids,” Means said. “These kids look up to the high school players so it was a pretty good combination and they seem to be having fun with it and the little kids like it.
“I remember being a kid and looking up to the high school athletes. It was special, it’s a special connection between high school players and the youth. It just helps bring the community together.”
Kiley Boutin helped coach one of the softball teams at the event with the help of Peachman and her assistants. Boutin was a multi-sport athlete for the Shoregals, playing softball and basketball. She was joined by Mallory McLellan, another former Avon Lake softballer.
The Avon Lake graduate was happy to give back to her community and hopes she’ll be able to participate again in the future.
“It’s been super fun and it really reminds me how much I love the sport and it reminds me of why I started playing softball,” she said. “It’s great to see how many girls are out here having fun.”
For Peachman it was rewarding to see her former players help inspire the next generation of Avon Lake players.
“It really kind of warms your heart to see this,” Peachman said. “I’m very encouraged. I’ve talked with some of the parents and they seem so into what we’re doing here in the city with this program. They’ve had great feedback for us, they love to see this and what we’re doing for the community.
“For our program, if I can start the interest in the game of softball at this level it’s just going to help my program at the high school level so much.”
Through the first two days of the event, both Means and Peachman were encouraged by what they saw from their current and future players. Both expect the camp to continue in the future based on what they’ve heard from participants.
“This is just the beginning, I think it’s been going pretty well for it being the first time and it’s absolutely something we foresee being a yearly thing for us,” Means said.