TU coach giving back to community with baseball camp

Tiffin University baseball coach Joe Wilkins said he was looking for something.

Something that would help kids, the community and the game he loves.

From that came the Tiffin University Youth Holiday Camp, which will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Hemminger Center. The camp is for players ages 8-14, and is set to run until 1 p.m.

The camp, which is for baseball instruction, is free. Campers are asked to bring two non-perishable food items.

“We haven’t done a kids camp in the winter time for a couple years,” Wilkins said. “We’ve done some weekly stuff, but just wanted to do something everybody can come to, no matter if they have money — we’ve always charged for our camps. So some of the kids that can’t afford it don’t get to come. We just wanted everybody to have a shot at doing some baseball stuff.”

The camp is filled up, though there is a waiting list available.

“I didn’t expect it to get filled up that quick, taking 150 kids,” Wilkins said. “This was two weeks ago, a week and a half ago, it was filled up.”

That’s good for Wilkins, who not only wants to help out area food banks and area players, but also wants to help re-ignite interest in baseball

Wilkins has been the Dragons’ coach for seven seasons. He played baseball at Ohio State, and was a catcher/outfielder in the minors for parts of two seasons.

Clearly, the sport means plenty to him.

“The active part is important there,” he said. “We’re not only competing with other sports, we’re competing with Fortnight. We’re competing with video games. We’re competing with a bunch of other stuff that they have access to. There’s a lot more access to things, easier, sometimes they get steered in that direction, versus going outside and playing, running around.

“That’s what we want to do with this camp,” he said, “get some of those guys out of their bedroom, out of their basement, get kids access to these facilities we have here, and just show them how cool it could be if they work hard at something.”

Wilkins said players will get instruction from area high school coaches, the TU staff, and some Dragon players as well.

“We have the Heminger Center Turf Room reserved right now, but we’re gonna have to open it up and reserve more of the Heminger Center,” he said. “I suspect sometime this week, I’ll be reserving the entire Heminger Center, we’ll be using the basketball courts, basically everything because of the number that we have.”

As for donations, Wilkins said campers can bring more than food.

“We’re gonna donate the canned goods to a local food bank,” he said. “We haven’t decided which one yet, but a general, local food bank. We’ll take coats — anything people want to get rid of that might help another child or family. We’ll collect that stuff as well.”

For Wilkins, it’s about giving back to the community.

“It just doesn’t happen very often. We honestly can’t afford to do it as often as we’d like,” he said. “But when we’re able to do it, we’d like to do it, because everything costs money, and people’s time and this and that. Every once in a while we like to do something different, for the game and for the kids.”