Mike Naughton is an assistant coach for the Washington State baseball program, and he also runs satellite Cougar baseball camps for kids all over the Northwest. Wednesday was the first time the camp has ever come to Missoula.
“I thought we had a great day. I think the kids had a good time today. We had a great turnout and I thought we had great energy which is the biggest thing for me. A lot of kids leave this game after that age of 12 to 13 and we want them to stay in the game. And it’s tough being in the Northwest. We don’t get twelve months of sunshine so it’s a little more challenging but we’ve got great athletes in these places.”
Helping out with this week's camp is current Cougar outfielder and Missoula native Ben Roberts. This past spring the former Sentinel Spartan standout started 44 games for Washington State. He hit .289 at the plate with eight extra base hits and his 21 RBI's were third most on the team. He was also second on the team with six stolen bases. Roberts says he's always glad to help coach the new generation of ball players, especially when he gets to do it back in his hometown.
“I was obviously pretty excited when I found out about that. I’ve been kind of bagging our coaches to get some type of WSU baseball over here and get it exposed to everybody, so I was super excited.”
“It’s awesome because Ben being from town, being from Missoula... he’s a fantastic player and he’s playing in the best conference in the country with the PAC-12. For him to be here from town and the kids to see that, I think is a pretty cool thing.”
“It’s fun to just give back and teach kids a little bit of what you know because obviously I’ve been through what a lot of these kids are going through right now. I’m just giving them tips to get ahead of the game so they’re not learning as they go and they already know what to expect once they get there.”
Another big draw to the two-day camp is getting to host it Ogren Park, home of the Missoula Osprey.
“Coach Naughton told me this is the best place he’s been all summer and he’s been all over the Northwest doing camps.”
“We get to go to youth parks and such but we don’t get to set foot on a pro field, this is awesome. I know we have a Coug here in Taylor Ard playing here so that’s kind of nice that we’re at one of the parks that one of our alumni is playing in right now.”
Day two of the camp will continue on Thursday with another session from 9:00 AM until noon.