PUTTING ON A CLINIC: AGAITAS, UPI TEAM UP TO PROVIDE FREE BASEBALL CAMP
StaceyPageOnline / Sports on Thursday, July 20, 2017
WARSAW — What’s better than a baseball camp where players receive instruction from former Major League Baseball players? That camp but for free, of course.
That’s exactly what roughly 80 young campers got at the third annual Agaitas Baseball Camp at the Warsaw High School baseball field this week. Agaitas — a portmanteau combining the Greek word “agape” and Latin word “veritas” for “love” and truth”, respectively — is a local sports ministry that puts on free camps for children. Campers at this year’s baseball clinic were given a special treat as former MLB pitcher Lee Guetterman and fellow former Big Leaguer Wade Rowdon both showed up to share some of their wisdom with young area players.
“The families love it. We’re both former Big Leaguers, and we obviously learned our skill pretty well and have learned how to teach it really well. It’s a passion of ours so we want to impart that to the next generation,” said Guetterman.
“A lot of times people go ‘Free? How good can it be?’ But Lee Guetterman is 12 years in the Big Leagues; I had a little time in the Big Leagues,” said Rowdon. “The first three days it was instruction: We worked on hitting, fielding, pitching, throwing mechanics, trying to teach the kids about the fundamentals of the game. And then today is game day, which is always nice. They really love that more than anything. It’s been very professional, very well run.”
Guetterman and Rowdon were first made aware of the camp through Agaitas’ association with another area ministry, Unlimited Potential, Inc. UPI is a fellowship of former professional baseball players promoting Christianity through their sport, and when the two organizations teamed up for this year’s Agaitas baseball outing, UPI president Tom Roy brought Guetterman and Rowdon on board with him.
“Tom Roy, he has connections with Major Leaguers so he sent out an email to a couple Major Leaguers and just said ‘Hey, this is what’s going on in Warsaw. We have a free camp. You’re not going to get paid. Do you want to come and share the Gospel and do baseball?’ And these two guys came,” explained Agaitas founder and director Ryan Burgher.
“I’ve had interaction with (Roy) for several years. We’ve been good friends since 1986, and he called me up and said ‘We’ve got a clinic up here in July. You want to come up?’” echoed Guetterman. “I said ‘Yeah, what are the dates?’ Because this is what I love to do.”
This year’s Agaitas Baseball Camp opened Monday and concluded with Thursday’s session. After the games, Guetterman shared some of his favorite Bible passages with the players, and he and Rowdon stayed on to sign autographs and pose for pictures with the youngsters.
While this week’s camp represented Agaitas’ third baseball clinic, Burgher founded the organization six years ago. In that time, Agaitas has put on six soccer camps and a basketball camp in addition to the baseball outings. All have been free to campers.
“We provide free camps for kids in the community. That’s all it is,” summed up Burgher. “Pretty much the only source of funding we have is from community members. We don’t charge anything for our camps because we want to give every kid the opportunity to come in and just be active and be part of something.”
“It is great because the hope is you reach some of the kids that might be afraid to go out or never get a chance to do that or maybe can’t afford to do it,” Rowdon said. “So Agaitas puts it on, and we get a chance to teach baseball and then we get a chance to share about our faith in Christ, which is really what motivates us. It’s a great mix. It’s so nice to see the kids out here having a great time. The high school gave us the field. It’s been really cool. The community has been unbelievable.”
“Really nothing is for free. You know the old saying there’s no such thing as a free lunch, right?” Guetterman said. “There are a lot of people that back this program, and they have a vision to impact their city and this isn’t the only one. They do basketball and soccer as well, and I think they’re working on some other sports. Kudos to them for wanting to reach out and make a positive impact on their community and to offer it for free to the kids.”