For the second consecutive year, metro-east children in grades 3 through 8 will have an opportunity to participate in a free baseball skills camp.
The camp is scheduled for June 12-15 at Whitey Herzog Field in Belleville. It will be held in memory of former Althoff High and Southwestern Illinois College pitcher Mike Kelley, who died of cancer on May 14, 2015, at age 28.
“We didn’t really know what to expect last year,” said Tom Kelley, Mike’s younger brother and former teammate. “We had a great turnout; we had just over 130 kids. This year, we’ve already exceeded that number so far. It’s encouraging that it’s going to grow, and we would like for it to continue to grow to help as many kids as possible.”
Former Althoff coach Brett Isaacs will serve as camp director. Former major-leaguers Kirk Rueter and Randy Wells are expected to help as instructors.
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“Last year, Randy was out there every day and Kirk Rueter was out there,” Kelley said. “They taught pitching lessons, basically, to all the kids. How many kids can say they had a pitching lesson from two former major-leaguers, and one of them (Rueter) pitched in the World Series? Area high-school baseball coaches come out for a couple of days, too, which is nice.”
Times for the camp each day are: 9 to 10:30 a.m. for players entering third and fourth grades; 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. for players entering fifth and sixth grades; and 12:30 to 2 p.m. for players entering seventh and eighth grades. Players should bring their own equipment. Drinks will be provided.
To register for the camp, call the Belleville Parks and Recreation Department at 233-1416 or visit the parks office at 510 W. Main St., to complete an application.
Registration will close May 26.
Curt Smith Sporting Goods in Belleville also are helping with the event.
Kelley adopted a “Refuse To Lose” approach to fighting cancer, and the Crusaders used it as their rallying cry in the 2015 postseason, which included a regional championship.
“Mike was always the fun-loving prankster, a wanting-to-lighten-the-mood kind of guy,” Tom Kelley said. “He was the loud one on the bench. That’s another thing we try to incorporate into the camp – let the kids know him. We’re here to learn, but we’re also here to have as much fun as possible.”
Also, the Mike Kelley Foundation will hold its third annual Silent Auction and Trivia Night at 7 p.m. on June 16 at Holy Trinity Church, 505 Fountains Parkway in Fairview Heights.
Doors to the auction and trivia night will open at 6. Cost is $350 for a table of 10, with all proceeds benefiting the foundation and the baseball camp.
To register, email Mo Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org.