There is a high school located at 2615 Warwick Ave in Warwick, RI that consistently places itself on the national map for academics, community service, volunteerism, and athletics. This high school has produced countless doctors, lawyers, teachers, athletic directors, community leaders, and professional athletes. Students prepare for life through a Catholic based curriculum and strong commitment to academics and community. The result – this high school churns out not only great student-athletes, but great young men who make the most of their abilities – on and off their respective playing fields. This high school is Bishop Hendricken High School.
For past 6 years, 6 summers to be exact, Coach Chris Sheehan, Assistant Athletic Director and Assistant Baseball Coach at Bishop Hendricken High School (BHHS), has coordinated and ran a baseball camp for the youth of Rhode Island and surrounding areas called the Green and Gold Baseball Camp. Green and gold happen to be the colors of BHHS and are proudly displayed throughout the campus, on the athletic fields, and on the various team uniforms. Coach Sheehan is a graduate himself of BHHS and now serves his community by bringing together an all-star alumni list of coaches to work his Green and Gold Camp. In addition to other BHHS baseball staffers, here is a short list of some of the coaches from this year’s camp:
- Matt Murphy – RIC Pitching Coach
- Tucker Flint – 2019 Gatorade Player of the Year
- Gian Martellini – 2 X Gatorade Player of the Year
- Caleb Wurster – UCONN Pitcher
- Mike Webb – URI Pitcher
- Randy Reyes – Central Connecticut State Pitcher
Like most sporting events, camps, and happenings in 2020, Green and Gold Baseball Camp needed to wait for Phase 3 of the ReOpening RI plan to go into effect. The camp is typically host to well over 100 kids, parents, staffers, and coaches working on the 3 baseball fields at BHHS plus some of the other surrounding athletic fields. In summers passed, parents lined the fences, the bleachers, snapped photos behind home plate, and mingled with other parents from neighboring leagues. With restrictions on numbers and gatherings this summer, Plan B would need to happen in order for the camp to compliant, safe for guests, and to maintain some kind of baseball normalcy. I was interested to see how Coach Sheehan would balance safety and social distancing with fun and baseball this summer for Green and Gold Baseball Camp, 2020. So, I reached out to him and asked if I could attend a few sessions to see how he and BHHS could make this camp a success.
The first impression told me everything I needed to know. As I walked up to greet Coach Sheehan on Day 2 on Tuesday, he assured me “baseball magic is happening here today, with safety being our top priority.” As with the safety precautions outlined in his email to me, I wore a mask to greet Coach and we did not shake hands or high five. Kind of strange for two baseball guys not to at least high five, but we kept our composure and got right into the details of the camp. Coach got right into safety, social distancing, keeping the kids in small groups, coaches practicing good habits and acting as role models, everyone wearing a mask or gaiter or face covering. Coach Sheehan was adamant about keeping his baseball camp healthy and safe as priority number 1. And of course, for the campers to learn from some of the best baseball players the state of Rhode Island has produced in the last decade. Safety first, baseball next!
First, the check in. I signed in, had a few medical questions asked of me, had my temperature taken, was shown the sanitizing stations, and was cleared by the staff to enter the camp. Pretty standard procedure nowadays for me going into a lot of places – baseball parks or businesses. Tuesday was a weather alert day in Rhode Island and the camp had been moved indoors for safety. In the first room I walked into (the basketball court), I observed a coach with a small group of hitters. The coach to player ratio was really impressive and it encouraged a lot of instruction for the kids. There were coaches everywhere in the building. Some were roving from room to room, others working one on one with players, others with a small group. As Coach Sheehan escorted me from room to room, I watched as coaches worked with the youth of RI baseball on running drills, throwing drills, hitting drills, and fielding skills. Players were hustling during drills, they were attentive, they were learning, they were making the most of playing an outdoor sport, indoors for the time being. Coaches were chatty and enthusiastic. Baseball coaches are normally very chatty and energetic, that is our nature. There was a crisp pace to the camp, with players moving from station to station or drill to drill. Yet, it never seemed arduous for the coaches nor the players. Every player was dressed in a green camp issued T-shirt that said “Green and Gold Baseball Camp” along with baseball hat from the camp. Everyone was having a blast – coaches, players – and isn’t that how it should be when you work hard at something you love?
Coach Sheehan was very active and busy and I appreciated the moments he spent with me. His duties as camp director included checking in on coaches, players, making sure safety protocols were being met, and just roving the halls talking to players and coaches. He even introduced me to his Mom, who was helping out at the check in desk. I let him get back to his director’s roles and thanked him for allowing me access. As I was leaving the gymnasium, I couldn’t help notice the hallway of championships. Having played against BHHS when I was in high school, I recall all too well how dominant they have been athletically. RI High School state championship plaques from football to track to baseball lined the walls and I snapped a few photos as I was walking out of the building.
I mentioned to Coach Sheehan that I wanted to see the campers out on the field, participating in field work, so I was allowed to return on Day 4, Thursday. Thursday was a much better weather day and the Green and Gold camp took its normal spot on Pepin Field and the surrounding baseball fields. When I walked up to the field, I couldn’t help notice that parents had lined the corner of the parking lot adjacent to the school. Parents were not allowed access into the camp this summer for safety reasons. I went through the normal process of safety when entering the camp, even though I was outdoors. Safety first, baseball next. I kept to the outside of the baseball fences and caught Coach Sheehan working with the campers on a graduated warm-up. There were socially distant rows of campers, I think I counted about 50 or so lined up 6 to a row along the left field lines of Pepin Field. Camp coaches walked the perimeter of the warm-up area as Coach Sheehan helped get the campers prepared for the 3 hours camp. In years passed, the camp ran for about 6 hours a day. This summer, the camp was broken up into 2 sessions (9-12 morning and 1-4 afternoon).
After warmups, Coach Sheehan drove over to greet me in his golf cart. He was wearing his Green and Gold gaiter and was really happy the campers could get back on the baseball fields. Coach went over the day’s programming notes – baserunning, relay throws, rundowns, etc – and handed me the coach’s sheet for the day. Every detail, every stage, every skill labeled succinctly and timed out perfectly so players could progress from station to station. No gray areas, every coach and player on the same page as to what they were doing, and what they would be doing next. On Coach’s sheet, there was even a slot for “snack break.” I watched the players get into smaller groups and head to 2nd base and/or home plate for a baserunning drill. The drill became a competition, with runners sprinted from 2nd to home or home to 2nd. The coaches cheered the players, the players cheered on each other, it got loud there at times. I saw a lot of hustle and effort by the campers. I saw a lot of enthusiasm by the coaches. Baseball magic, as Coach Sheehan had promised on Tuesday.
Due to time restraints, I could only stay for a small portion of the camp. From what I witnessed, it was safety first, baseball next. The coaching staff all wore masks/face coverings and maintained social distancing when possible. The players were split up into smaller groups and encouraged to socially distance as they moved from station to station. Other than the parents not being in attendance, the mask wearing coaches, the sanitizing stations, the Covid-19 signage around the parks, the camp seemed to run about as normal as you can get. Not once in the 2 days that I attended, did I see any player pout, hear anyone complain, see any coach not wearing his mask when appropriate, or see anything to suggest that the camp was not trying to be 10000% compliant with local and state safety guidelines. Everything screamed “Safety first, baseball next.”
Great job Coach Chris Sheehan, staffers, coaches and BHHS alumni for a very successful Green and Gold Baseball Camp, 2020. I applaud your efforts to host Rhode Island’s up and coming baseball stars and help develop their baseball skills in this new normal. I appreciate the opportunity to visit and write about your camp and look forward to watching not only the players from the camp, but also the coaches from the camp as they progress in their amateur and potentially professional baseball careers.