Spring break is often reserved for trips to the beach or the amusement parks. In Land O'Lakes, some kids are using the free time to field ground balls and take batting practice.
Abner Barrios is a baseball lifer. From his time on the Kansas City Royals single-A team to his current job teaching at John Long Middle School, Barrios has carried his passion for baseball as he began teaching the game through camps 12 years ago. After helping out the Wiregrass Ranch High School baseball team's coaching staff, Barrios saw a need to teach camps targeted at middle school-age kids.
"After seeing some of the high school kids and things they were lacking, I felt like it would help to have something at the middle school level," Barrios said. "There really isn't anything for kids this age. I didn't have anything like this when I was that age, either, but I wish I had. That way, when they get to high school, they aren't still working on fundamentals so much."
Common problems Barrios has noticed are kids have what he calls "loops" in their swings and other fundamental issues that lead to problems for players.
"Kids have basic problems with their hands not coming away from their body or holes in their swings," Barrios said. "It seems like every time a kid strikes out, it's because he isn't keeping his head down. One of the things we work on is just keeping your eye on the ball."
Players at the camp are of all experience levels. For some, such as Eric Negron, Barrios' camp is their first. The 15-year-old normally plays in the Wesley Chapel Athletic Association's Senior Division and thought the camp could help him.
"This is good because he raises a lot of good points you can learn from," Negron said.
"He has good lessons for both defense and hitting. I think I'm going to come to another one."
Parents observing the camp like Barrios because of his ability to make the experience enjoyable for kids. Terry O'Brien has enrolled his 12-year-old son in Barrios' camps before and has seen the positive effect his coaching can have on a player.
"He makes the fundamentals fun," O'Brien said.
"He has a great understanding of kids and knows the right things to say so that it clicks for them."
Barrios feels part of his coaching success is his ability to relate to the kids.
"I'm a kid at heart," Barrios said. "I wish I could 16 or 17 and be out here running around and getting dirty all day. This is as close as I can get to that. The game meant so much to me and motivated me in my youth, and I want it to mean that much to them."
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