In its first year, Dollard Baseball Academy proves popular among area players
BY MICHAEL PIASETZKI On a hot weekday afternoon in July, a group of boys between the ages of 10 and 16 are playing baseball at Lake Road Park in Dollard des Ormeaux. The pitcher reels back and throws. The hitter lines a solid shot into the outfield. Feeling aggressive and confident, he rounds the bag at second, and without hesitation — or even thinking — tries to stretch it into a triple. Midway between second and third, though, he suddenly hears a loud gruff voice holler out, adamantly telling him to stop dead in his tracks. He is told he has made a major baserunning mistake. The runner does what he’s told, and the game comes to a sudden halt. The voice belongs to Dorval resident Ray Callari, chief instructor and operator of the Dollard Baseball Academy, which, in its inaugural season, just wrapped up a series of five one-week sessions involving area players at Lake Road Park.
Baseball camp stresses fundamentals
Over the past several years, the 37-year-old Callari has earned a reputation as a solid baseball man. So much so, he was recently asked to serve as director of player development for the Lac St. Louis baseball region, and works as infield co-ordinator for the Quebec Midget AAA Baseball League. He is also an assistant instructor with L’Académie Baseball Canada (ABC) at the Claude Robillard Centre, and plans to start a fall-ball program in the West Island in September. A former shortstop in the Montreal Expos farm system, Callari has also worked as a part-time major-league scout, first
for the Cincinnati Reds and now the Pittsburgh Pirates. “You know the biggest mistake I see with kids here in the West Island?” asked Callari. “When I throw a hitting tee out there, they get depressed. They think they’re being put down. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with working with the tee. Big-league guys use it all the time to get their swing back.”
Callari, whose largest complaint about the current state of baseball in the West Island is there are too many games and not enough teaching, stressed fundamentals, fundamentals, and even more fundamentals at his Dollard Baseball Academy. “Baserunning, fielding, pitching, hitting, outfield and infield play,” said Callari. “Games were simulated. These kids have to learn that practice will get them ahead in this game, not playing games. That, and when you’re honest and a hard worker, good things will come to you.”
The camp proved so popular, several players returned for an extra week or two. One of those was Alex Scodras, a Beaconsfield resident currently playing for the Montreal Metropolitan Baseball League Maisonneuve Olympiques. “We were taught to have discipline, both at the plate and on the field,” said Scodras. “That really helps you in the game. But you know, the main key was having fun out there.”