"Our camps start this Sunday with two team camps. They are about four days each and they overlap a little bit. There are 16 high school teams coming to each of the two sessions. It is a great opportunity for those teams that are coming in learn more about what we do and work with our staff. And it's also a great chance for us to see 32 different high school teams play, evaluate them, including seeing their younger players. We are excited about it because it is a great opportunity for us.
"Then, after those two team camps, we roll into the individual camps from junior high to high school to pitcher-catcher, then to the youth camps."
Do you have a maximum number of kids that can attend?
"The camps used to fill up, but since we've built the Palmeiro Center, our air-conditioned in-door facility, there is almost no limit. Whomever shows up, we pretty much can handle them. So, we will take people right up to the day of camp registration. That's been a nice change."
How many kids attended the camps last summer?
"The last couple of years there have been between 800 and a 1,000 that attended during the summer. We will probably be a little higher this year just because the team camps are so big. Last year we had 20 teams and this year we will have 32. And teams average about 18 players."
Where do the teams play their games while attending the camps?
"We play on Dudy Noble and on the high school fields in the area, Starkville High School and Starkville Academy."
Do the MSU coaches have a chance to evaluate the players while they are playing?
"We do. We can put one of our coaches on our staff at each of the fields. They will sit, watch games and evaluate guys. Then, when they leave, we will give them all our notes about their guys."
What do the kids do when they aren't playing games?
"When they aren't playing games, they are working with our staff on defensive positions or they are in the Palmeiro Center doing hitting instruction. It's a nice setup for them because they not only get to play the games they need to play during the summer, but they also get instruction. If you go to a tournament you just play games without the instruction. So, it's the best of both worlds for the kids."
How long does a typical day last at one of your camps?
"It's from 8 am to 10 pm or later. We feel like if they are going to pay their money, we are going to make sure they get their monies' worth."
Most camps, no matter what sport, are also used for recruiting purposes. Is your camps used for recruiting as well?
"Ideally, there is some recruiting going on. There will be some kids here that are prospects and there will be some that aren't. And it's not just the MSU coaches looking at the kids. There will also be other (four-year) college coaches and junior college coaches that help us work the camps. They may find some players that they like that they end up recruiting. So, it's good exposure for the guys.
"Before the kids leave the camp, we tell them if they need a reference we are happy to be one. We get a lot of that in the fall. Let's say a kid from a high school in, say Georgia, comes to one of our team camps and a college coach calls him during the fall. He can tell the coach that he went to a Mississippi State camp during the summer. That coach can then call us about the kid. I'll pull up all the notes we have on him and provide that to the coach. So, coming to our camps provides several resources for the kids."
While there is some recruiting going on, that's really not the main purpose of your camps, is it?
"Everybody has their own philosophy about their camps. Some are mainly recruiting and there is not a lot of instruction going on. But Coach Polk really wants our camps slanted toward the instructional part. If a guy ends up being a prospect that is great, but 90% of them aren't and we want to take good care of those kids while they are here and teach them as much as we can. And I think because of that, we have a good return rate. Kids that came to the 7-year old youth camp come back when they are in junior high, then high school. It's gotten to the point where we know at least half of the kids that attend our high school camp."
you mentioned Coach Polk. How much is he involved in the camps?
"Every minute of every day of all the camps. There is probably not another head coach in the entire country that does that. And that is a great asset for whomever is the camp coordinator.
"If you are playing on the field he is going to be somewhere watching you. And he is everywhere. I may look and he'll be in the dugout, then I'll turn my head and he'll be somewhere else. He may be at Shira, then at Dudy Noble or the Palmeiro Center. I don't know how he does it, but he's everywhere. I think at some point during each camp he puts his arm around every kid in camp and talks to them. And he's been around so long and knows so many people, when he asks that kid where he is from he will know somebody that kid knows. He sems to have some kind of connection with everybody.
"He also does a lot of instruction. When we break up to do positions, Coach Polk does infield. If 200 kids run over to do infield, he does every bit of the instruction.
"Before I started work here, I worked a lot of SEC camps and there is not a head coach that does it like he does. It's definitely a unique aspect of our camps that a lot of other camps don't get."
If a kid would like to attend a Mississippi State baseball camp, how can they register?
"The easy way to register is do it on-line at our site. It has everything listed there. They can also call either April or me at the baseball number, 662-325-3597."
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.