By Ryan Kaczmarski
The Phil Bova baseball camp has been going on every summer for the last 40 years, teaching baseball players ages 7-14 the ways to perfect the fundamentals of the game.
This year, the camp – held last week at the Westlake Recreation Center – continued the deep tradition of teaching the art of “perfect practice.”
“We had a minor miracle here this week,” Bova said. “Five days of sun here in Cleveland, Ohio. We’re grateful to the Lord above, because when you’re outside, it’s delightful and the kids have a different mindset.
“We have a staff that has done a phenomenal job,” he added. “Many of the guys have been with me for 25 of the 40 years.”
One of the coaches on the camp staff is Ron Coreno, who has been with Bova for more than 30 years.
“Everything for (the campers) is a new adventure,” Coreno said. “They’re excited to be on their own. Usually in a park setting, at 8 years old, you are with your parents. Now, you’re with a whole bunch of other kids your age.
“It’s been a great thing for the kids,” he continued. “We’ve had boys – men – here in our operation who have started out as campers, became counselors and now are coaches. They’ve gone from participating, to helping out and now to supervising.”
One of the campers-turned-instructors was North Olmsted native Aaron Klinec, who most recently was a utility infielder for the Lake Erie Crushers of the Frontier League.
“I went (to the Bova camp) for five or six years when I was growing up,” Klinec said. “It’s all pretty much the same staff, and the fundamentals that they teach are the key to being successful. I picked up how to field ground balls, throw, bunting, base running and all the little things, too.”
Klinec feels the camp helped him throughout his career as a player.
“I’m not the biggest guy, so I just had to do the little things right and be fundamentally sound,” he said. “On my high school teams, and even in college, I was the most fundamentally sound player on my team.
“This is the first year I have come back (to the camp) to be a coach,” he added. “It’s just good to be back working with the kids. To be here with these 200 (plus) campers is awesome.”
The camp staff has a family feel, and even Bova’s son Mike Bova, a former star at Westlake High School, was given the chance to teach the kids alongside his father.
“First of all, I’d like to say that I’m proud of my dad,” Mike Bova said. “You don’t have a successful camp for 40 years if you don’t have someone as professional as him running it, as well as being so good with the kids and having the ability help the kids be motivated and understand the fundamentals of the game.
“It’s great for me to watch my dad – not having a brother – he is like a brother and best friend to me,” he added. “He’s a role model and he’s always been there to help me, so to come out here and help the kids, it’s been fun to teach the kids the same things he taught me.”