WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — In the words of 1970s rock star Alice Cooper, school's out for summer.
No class means it's time to go camping, and there’s no better way to do it than at the Warner Robins Little League fields alongside a local legend.
It’s been 41 years strong for Coach Robert Sapp's baseball and softball camp, and the same old tricks still work.
“It's pretty much the same as far as the fundamentals,” Sapp said. “We haven't changed a whole lot. We've learned a few things too. And we've learned from the kids. I mean not just baseball.”
The camp takes place at five different sites across the state, but Central Georgia is a special stop.
Sapp is known by many in the area for the success of his camp, but perhaps even better known for his own success on the diamond. The former Middle Georgia College skipper led the Warriors to four junior college national championships from 1976 to 1996. He also served three seasons in Athens, as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.
But for as long as he’s been around, Sapp still sees how the game has evolved.
“Hitting is really changed a lot. They've got to take their game and match up and work on hitting the ball to all fields because nowadays you've got so many of these shifts and so forth,” Sapp said.
The camp’s philosophy has always revolved around the teaching of fundamentals, like footwork, fielding, and speed, teaching campers to focus on their strengths. In the afternoons, campers take part in scrimmage games to implement those skills. Local high school and college coaches come back each summer to help teach.
Former campers have gone on to play at the high school, college, and even professional level, but many also don't. It’s why this week's lessons are equal parts about life on the field, and off it.
“That teaches you about life,” Sapp said. “We all have to make adjustments. Whether it's rain, sun, or whether you can't see or you can't hear, you've got to make adjustments in life. So we try to really emphasize that to these kids when things go wrong that you have to make an adjustment.”
The perfect teaching example: local alums who have gone on to play at the next level, who come back to help coach the camp, like Houston County High School grad and current Georgia Southern softball player, Madi Banks.
“My first time playing softball was on this field and my coach asked me who wanted to get out, and I didn't know what an out was and I raised my hand and everybody laughed at me, so that's the only memory I have on this field,” Banks said. “I am now playing college so it's good for them to see, just because you can't throw doesn't mean you won't be great one day.”
Whether Coach Sapp’s campers will be heading to the next level or not, it’s about hoping that this year – and many more to come – aren’t ones that Central Georgia’s youngest stars won’t soon forget.
“I think it's just because I'm old school, and I would love to see these kids be able to have a chance to at least get the baseball experience,” Sapp said. “It may not be high school, it may not be middle school, but just at least the experience of baseball. And I think that's a carry over for life.”