Baseball practice in January … in Mandan?
By Scooter Pursley
For the Mandan News
What do basketballs, baseballs and snowballs have in common?
For Len Stanley, they’re all in a weekend’s work in January.
What would make Stanley, the Mandan High School girls basketball coach, drive all the way back from Gillette, Wyo., in the middle of January on a Saturday to get to the gym on a Sunday?
Would you believe a baseball practice?
Stanley said he and area coaches have been conducting the Bismarck-Mandan baseball camp for “seven or eight years” and interest in the camp continues to grow. It’s no different than camps in other sports, except that it happens indoors in January.
The U.S. Baseball Academy oversees the camp. Stanley finds the coaches and they follow a six-week lesson plan developed by the academy. That is why Stanley can find time for overseeing the camp, even in the middle of the basketball season.
“My job as the director is easy,” Stanley said. “They get the registrations and T-shirts, I get the coaches. The camps are run throughout the United States and they are all pretty consistent. They send out a lesson plan for the six weeks that we follow. I can’t just do whatever I want, there is consistency.”
Campers sign up by age group and a new group comes in every hour. Groups include grades 1-12 for hitting and field/base running, grades 1-9 for pitching and grades 3-12 for catching.
Pitchers have to supply their own catchers, which creates a new dynamic. “Usually it’s a father-son,” Stanley said. “It’s a great bonding thing. Part of the positive feedback I’ve gotten from parents is that it’s a great way to spend part of your Sunday with your child.”
Stanley first experienced the camp in Minot after taking the job as head coach at Bismarck State College.
“When I first started it was just a pitching and hitting camp,” Stanley said. “Now they have added base running and fielding to it.”
Kids go through drills in the sessions they can choose online. It includes live pitching as well.
Coaches have included area coaches like Mike Skytland, Steve Folmer and Mike Gustafson and Ryne Jungling.
Sessions are scheduled for Jan. 5, 12, 19, 26 and Feb. 2, 9.
Stanley has been around the game most of his life. He has had high school and American Legion coaching stints in Bowman, Washburn, Mandan and Bismarck and coached at Williston State and Bismarck State. He knows how a long winter can eat into a baseball season, and that’s why the camp is held at the right time.
“Our kids in the Upper Midwest lose out so much baseball time,” Stanley said. “This is one way to keep a bat in their hands and let them get some reps in. You’re thinking baseball year-round.
“It’s no different than in the summertime they have basketball camps and football camps. It’s in the winter, so there’s a chance to go to camp.”
The camp does not conflict with school activities because the sessions are held on Sundays. Camps usually include between 125 and 200 kids. Players from as far away as Beulah and Richardton attended last year’s camp.
Sessions will be held at Mandan High School.
“It’s six hours on a Sunday,” Stanley said. “I’ve been really happy with the way things have gone.”
You can get more information on the Bismarck-Mandan camp at www.us