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Lex Landow, left, tops Jack Weidner in a round of the “fastest bat competition” at Park’s youth baseball camp Wednesday at Park High School. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)
Lex Landow, left, tops Jack Weidner in a round of the “fastest bat competition” at Park’s youth baseball camp Wednesday at Park High School. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)

Wolfpack baseball team teaches youth to “Play Fast”

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sports Cottage Grove, 55016

Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

Wolfpack baseball coach John McGowan was on the bump during a scrimmage at Park’s youth baseball camp Wednesday at Park High School.

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He struck out the first three batters.

“I might have some eligibility left,” he joked afterward.

Of course, he wasn’t trying to shut the young players down. After the inning ended and the two teams switched positions between the batter’s box and the field, McGowan looked at one of his varsity players and shrugged.

“Am I throwing too hard?” he asked.

He wasn’t.

The kids spent the rest of the scrimmage smacking the ball around the field and putting up multiple crooked numbers against McGowan, ruining his once perfect earned run average and strikeout rate.

“That’s OK,” he said. “It’s all for the kids.”

That first inning represented one of the valuable lessons McGowan said baseball teaches young kids -- perseverance.

“If you strikeout or make an error it’s totally OK, it’s learning in life,” he said. “It’s learning how to deal with failure, and then you can pick yourself back up and play again and go hard at the next play. It’s a great sport to help kids deal with adversity and maybe not being successful all the time. Just go out there and have fun, play hard and love the game.”

Park featured two youth camps this week -- one for kids aged 9-11, the other for kids in the 12-14 age group. McGowan said about 80 kids attended the camps in total.

The message on the back of this year’s youth camp shirts read “Play Fast.” McGowan said the slogan was about playing with hustle and effort and playing baseball, which is traditionally considered a slower sport, at a quick pace.

McGowan said he worries baseball is losing some kids in the younger ranks because it is indeed a slower sport, so he’s trying to speed it up.

“Just getting on and off the field as fast as you can and hustling to every ball, hustling on deck, just everything,” McGowan said. “You don’t need to be hitting .350 or .400, you don’t need to be hitting home runs to play fast. You don’t need to throw 85-90 miles per hour to play fast. Every kid on the team can play fast. If we play fast, that’ll give us an advantage.”

McGowan had the help of some high school players as well. McGowan said he expects his guys to give back to the community and the youth programs.

“Because they were there once and someone gave back to them,” he said. “They did a really nice job with these kids, coaching them up and teaching them. So I’m impressed with our high school kids coming out and volunteering their time. … They got up in the morning during one of their last weeks of summer, so that was good of them to come out.”

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