Former Big Leaguer Pat Perry Brings Baseball Camp to Quincy
Pat Perry had an eight-year career as a left-handed pitcher in the big leagues in the 1980s -- a career cut short by rotator cuff surgery. He is bringing the Pat Perry 2014 Summer Baseball Camp to the Quincy YMCA on June 9 and 10, and he'll be bringing with him a wealth of knowledge that even he didn't fully grasp and understand until after his playing days were over.
When Pat Perry was growing up in Taylorville, IL in the 1970s, he had the same dream that thousands of other kids did then, and still do today. He wanted to play Major League Baseball.
"Everything was simple back then," Perry said. "We only had a 12-game season in Taylorville."
Twelve games may pale in comparison to today's little league player. These days many kids as young as eight years old participate in traveling teams and/or tournament teams and play 50 games or more in a season. That's something Perry isn't sold on as the best way to develop a youngster -- physically or mentally -- to become the next Adam Wainwright.
"Baseball has been taught the same way for so many years," Perry said. "Arms are getting beat up." Perry watches games and particularly pitchers very closely, whether it's sitting in on a throwing session with a young Kyle McClellan one day at Rams Park, or watching a 12-year-old at a little league game. "The torso has to get delivered. It's all about the throwing hand being below the elbow before the foot lands". These mechanics can be and should be taught at an early age to help avoid arm injuries, Perry explained.
The traveling teams can take a toll. "Why are you traveling?" Perry wondered. "Is it to play better competition? I go by one simple formula: how good are you going to get? All of those trophies (from tournaments) are 'feel good' in the moment." Playing the game the right way and camaraderie with your friends are what's important, according to Perry. "You won't remember the wins and losses. You'll remember the journey. You won't understand where you've been until it's over."
Perry's career started with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1985. He remembers the call that every aspiring baseball player dreams about -- he was going to the big leagues. "We had just won the Triple A Championship Game and I was celebrating with the team in Mile High Stadium in Denver," Perry said. "I had a lot to celebrate that night. The next day I was in New York." His debut as a St. Louis Cardinal -- his favorite team growing up -- happened against the arch rival New York Mets in Shea Stadium. "They had a lot of lefties," Perry said. "It was my job to get lefties out."
Ironically, one of Perry's career highlights came not on the pitching mound, but at the plate. He homered in his first at-bat as a Chicago Cub. He still watches that home run on YouTube occasionally. "I smiled at (second base umpire) Eric Gregg and as I was going around the bases I almost fell down," Perry laughed. "Ryne Sandberg joked and said I high-fived Mike Schmidt (the Phillies hall-of-famer) at third because I was so excited."
Perry's Quincy baseball camp will be Monday, June 9, and Tuesday, June 10, from 9 a.m. - 11 a.m. for ages 6-8 and 11:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. for ages 9-12. The cost is $75 for ages 6-8 and $99 for ages 9-12. Email Pat at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions regarding registration.
Perry encourages parents to be their child's biggest fan and best supporter. "Reward them for their effort," he said. Despite a successful career in Major League Baseball, Perry says his effect on the lives of young athletes is what's most important to him. "I've taught a staggering number of kids. My greatest reward is teaching."