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Tyler Manca ’18 Organizes Free Baseball Academy for Youngsters

A member of the O’Dowd varsity baseball team, Tyler has benefitted from playing highly competitive – yet expensive – travel ball. He knows, however, those opportunities are cost prohibitive for many youngsters.

So Tyler took steps to ensure that young baseball players who don’t have the financial resources to participate in elite travel ball still have the opportunity to develop skills needed to succeed at the high school level, and experience the joy the sport has brought him.

Tyler came up with the concept for a baseball camp – The Greatest Game Baseball Academy – for youngsters ages 10-14, sought donations of T-shirts and baseball caps, developed a detailed four-week program, recruited players and solicited guest coaches.

“I first came up with the idea last summer, and started planning everything out with my Dad,” Tyler said. “Kids often stop playing baseball because travel ball is so expensive. I wanted to provide them with an opportunity to develop skills at no cost.”

The camp, held at O’Dowd, spanned four Sundays in January. Each session, which ran from 12:30-3:30 p.m., focused on a different skill – hitting, fielding, pitching, and higher level defense. Tyler recruited some of his Dragon baseball peers to help staff the camp, including Luke Ditzler ’18, Ben Lancaster ’17 and Zach Thompson ’18.

Guest coaches included O’Dowd Assistant Principal Jase Turner, who played for several years in the Kansas City Royals’ minor league system, O’Dowd PE teacher and baseball coach Chris Kyriacou, and varsity baseball coach Derrick Levingston. “Each week I developed a practice plan based on which guest coach was coming and what drills we wanted to stress that particular session,” Tyler said.

In the final session, the nearly 40 campers had an opportunity to put their new skills to the test in a scrimmage.

“It was amazing to see how Tyler and his team created a professional, organized and fun environment to offer a high level instructional camp for local players in our community,” Turner said. “For kids to have access to a camp like this for free is a great opportunity. The kids were smiling all the way through.”

Tyler also got help from the community. West Coast Sports donated T-shirts and a selection of Major League baseball caps for the campers, and the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants contributed baseball caps and cards.

When it came to developing the camp program, Tyler relied heavily on his Dad, who has years of experience as a Little League coach, and got counsel from officials at NOLL/SOLL (North Oakland Little League/South Oakland Little League).

Tyler created flyers advertising the camp that he distributed to principals at local Catholic grammar schools, posted at various churches, community centers and businesses throughout Oakland, and provided to NOLL/SOLL families.

Tyler was inspired by the positive reception of his camp by both youngsters and their parents. “I saw the mom of one of the campers in Montclair after one of the sessions and she told me her son loved the camp and had talked about it all night. That was great to hear,” he said.

And he plans to organize the camp again next year. “Baseball has shaped my life in such a positive way. I have friendships made in Little League that will last forever,” he said. “I want everybody to have the same experience.”


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