AYER -- With spring-like temperatures casting down on the region Saturday morning, the Ayer Shirley Regional High School coaching staff ran its first annual youth baseball camp for local players in both the Ayer and Shirley leagues.
Children ages nine through 12 were treated to a two-hour comprehensive clinic that touched on various skills from proper infielding techniques to how to effectively shag a fly ball.
The camp served as a reminder that baseball season is not too far off.
Third-year varsity baseball coach Scott Callanan has been looking for a way to bridge the gap between the Ayer Shirley youth baseball league and the time when the players transition to the high school program.
"I have been looking to do something like this since I got the varsity job," Callanan said. "Now that I am starting my third-year, I know a lot more people now than when I started. It's fun to be involved with this. The kids were really excited today -- it was a lot of fun."
Both sessions drew a combined 60 participants -- not too shabby for the camp's first go-around.
Assistant varsity baseball coach, Steve Cadoret, a former pitcher for Boston College (2005-2007), worked with the young hurlers in the back corner of the gym from the artificial mound. Cadoret taught the young gunslingers how to effectively grip a fastball.
First-year athletic director, Jon Sweeney, took his place behind the dish and caught for the youngsters.
Over at the center of the Ayer Shirley gym was Shirley field and facilities director Mark Pinard, who was teaching the outfielders how to read a fly-ball off the bat. The outfielders razzled and dazzled with some impressive over-the-shoulder catches that would make even the great Willy Mays jealous.
"I have to give a big kudos to the guys from Ayer and Shirley, who came out on February vacation to help with this camp," Pinard said. "Both organizations, Ayer and Shirley, were big in making this happen.
"We are really appreciative to the Ayer Shirley coaching staff for asking us to come out," he said. "It is the first-time we did it, and we will do it again next year -- we might even do it this spring with the high school players, once we can get outside. The kids, especially the younger ones, will really radiate with the older kids."
Once each group cycled through all of the stations, it was time for everyone's favorite, dome ball -- a gym-class staple where a soft mushy ball is wrapped in athletic tape and is typically played indoors with metal bats.
Callanan stepped up to the plate late in the final session of camp and blasted a pitch off Cadoret to the back wall, which left a lot of the campers smiling.
"We were mostly just having fun," a smiling Callanan said. "We had plenty of volunteers who wanted to help out, which was great. There is some good talent in Ayer and Shirley."