On the morning of January 21, a nice overcast day, youth ages 11-14 gathered at the Salt River Recreation Building to participate in the very first Nike N7 Baseball Camp. They received their Native American–inspired Nike N7 T-shirts, then boarded a charter bus that took them over to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
Featuring Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and special guest Luis Gonzalez of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the camp gave youth an opportunity to learn what the pros learn each day as Major League Baseball players.
As the youngsters arrived at Salt River Fields, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Vice-President Martin Harvier welcomed them to this first-ever baseball camp.
Harvier stressed to them what a great opportunity they had to be able to learn from Ellsbury, one of Major League Baseball’s best players. Professional trainers were there as well to work with the youth on techniques that the professional athletes learn to help them reach the professional level.
“There is something I wanted to point out to you,” noted Harvier. “What you’re going to learn through your hitting and batting is that there is a lot of balance that takes place in everything that you do,” said Harvier. “You’re all young, and I want you to know that everything you do right now can reflect in your future in what you want to accomplish, so make sure you make good choices. Jacoby is a Major League Baseball player enrolled as a Native American from the Colorado [River] Indian Tribe[s]. That is truly amazing. I believe there are only three active Native American players in the major leagues, and that is really an accomplishment. I am sure he has set goals for himself to achieve [that helped him get] where he is now.”
Harvier encouraged the youth to do the right thing, make good choices, and to stay away from drugs and alcohol.
“Don’t get involved with that—it won’t hurt you, it will destroy you,” said Harvier as he continued to encourage the youth. “Stay on that right path and stay balanced, and you’ll be blessed.”
Harvier then presented a gift to Ellsbury, a sculpture of an O’odham woman dancer and a bolo tie.
Practicing Baseball Skills
After the welcome, the youth gathered at home plate, where they took a group photo with the trainer and Ellsbury before the training session began.
The kids then gathered in center outfield for a warm-up and some stretches before dividing into groups where they were teamed up with baseball trainers to practice drills in catching, batting and throwing. Some of the groups stayed on the field and others went to the batting cages until they broke for lunch, and after lunch the groups switched places.
Ellsbury assisted the youngsters with their batting skills, helping the younger ones and encouraging them as they hit the ball, impressed with all the kids he worked with.
“The biggest thing is promoting a healthy lifestyle through sports, baseball, running and various activities, and what a wonderful way of doing that by hosting a baseball camp here at the Salt River Fields,” said Ellsbury about participating in the Nike N7 Baseball Camp. “It’s my first time here and I’m just excited to be a part of it and to have these kids come out here and run around and enjoy themselves.”
Ellsbury went on to say that he tries to do the right thing on and off the field to set a good example for youth and his fans. His main goal for the youth attending the baseball camp is that they come away with a positive experience, have a good time and remember years down the road that they had a great time.
Sam McCracken, general manager and the visionary behind the Nike N7 program, was thrilled to be a part of the first-ever Nike N7 Baseball Camp.
“Jacoby asked to put this together; he really wanted to align with some of our strategies at Nike about activating youth, and obviously baseball is his forte,” said McCracken. “He is one of our ambassadors; we have several ambassadors that support the brand and the movement to get kids into sports. He came to us to do a camp, and what better place to do it than here in Salt River?”
The N7 team also hosts the Native American Basketball and Baseball Invitationals here in Arizona.
“We would love to do other camp like this in the future,” said McCracken. “If any of the Nike N7 ambassadors, such as St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford [Cherokee] or runner Alvina Begay [Navajo], who just ran in the U.S. Olympic trials in Houston, Texas, want to do other camps, we will do so. We support their vision as long as we are getting youth active. That’s our main vision behind Nike N7 is activating youth, using sports as a tool to create positive experiences in their life.”
As the day wrapped up, the kids had an opportunity to ask questions of Ellsbury and Luis Gonzalez during a Q&A session.