As you all know, I spend a disproportionate amount of my free time following New England college baseball, and one of the things that consistently amazes me is how much time the players find to serve their communities. Every time I turn around, they’re shaving their heads for cancer research, drafting a player from Team IMPACT, bringing in millions to a charity that’s near and dear to their hearts, or finding one of a thousand other ways of giving back.
It’s nothing short of incredible, especially when you consider that these guys play the most time-intensive sport in the NCAA. They spend more time on the field than anyone else, miss classes and lose sleep on long road trips, and often stay on campus long after their classmates have gone home for the summer. All while trying to juggle the many responsibilities of life as a college student. And yet, they still find the time, energy, and motivation to do good in their communities.
Meet Merrimack’s Ryan Petrone, a quintessential example of that spirit. His junior season as a .294-hitting regular for one of the top teams in the Northeast-10 was chugging along smoothly until he broke his ankle in mid-March. Instead of dwelling on how a promising season had been cut short (and I know from experience that it’s easy to mope after breaking your ankle), he saw an opportunity to devote more time to the Mini Warrior Baseball Clinics, the off-the-field endeavor he’s been using to give back to his community since he was 18.
Ryan, a Central Mass native, got his start in coaching when he was just 15, working at clinics run by the Worcester Tornadoes’ Nick Salotti, whom he’d met at a local hitting facility. The following year, when illness prevented Salotti from directing a clinic, Ryan ran the camp himself at just 16. After getting a couple more years’ experience under his belt, he started the Mini Warrior Clinics in 2013.
You can find a lot more information at the camps’ website, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight a few things here. For starters, they’re affordable and accessible. In a day and age when quality baseball camps usually mean a long drive and an outlay of several hundred dollars, Ryan’s clinics are a breath of fresh air. Even before discounts for families and multi-week campers, a week-long, full-day camp costs just $195, a good chunk of which gets donated back to the local little league. On top of that, it comes straight to a local field. And campers aren’t just a face in a crowd– the player/coach ratio is 8:1 at minimum. The coaching staff is drawn from the rosters of programs like UMass Lowell, Merrimack, Assumption, Roger Williams, and Springfield, whose success you’ve probably read about in these pages before. Overall, it’s a safe, fun, and affordable chance for young players to get great coaching during the summer.
If you’re from the Worcester area and know a player who’d enjoy the camps, you can learn more on the official website, or on Facebook or Twitter. Mini Warrior already has 2016 dates booked for Leicester, Paxton, Spencer/East Brookfield, Charlton, and Millbury with more to come. If you’re from outside Worcester County, you can still help by spreading the word or by donating at their GoFundMe page. (Donors include Merrimack alum and current Twins hurler Ryan O’Rourke, as well as 2011 World Series Champion Marc Rzepczynski.) Feel free to contact Ryan or myself with any questions, and thanks for reading!