While the Los Angeles Dodgers had a rare off day at home, Thursday was nothing of the sort for Justin Turner as he hosted a Citi ProCamp for the third time and later that night partnered with Chris Harrison to participate in Kershaw’s Challenge seventh annual Ping Pong 4 Purpose.
He and Harrison came up short in their quest to be crowned ping pong champions — Turner will argue they faced ringers in the second round — but there were nothing but winners throughout the morning at Simi Valley High School.
“It’s pretty awesome. This is my third year doing the Citi Camp and it seems like it’s gotten bigger and bigger every year,” Turner said.
“They do an outstanding job, it’s such an organized camp. I’ve got to shout out all the volunteers out here helping coach the teams and spending their day on the field to try and help kids get better at the game we all love.
“This is fun, this is exciting. I know how much it means to the kids because I was that kid who enjoyed being around… I was around college guys in the camps I went to. Anything I can do to impact and hopefully create a dream for a kid, make them work harder or longer and get a scholarship to go to college, I’m all for that.”
Hundreds of boys and girls, grades 1 through 8, were on hand for a day of learning and photo opportunities with Turner. They spent time at fundamental skills stations that tested and refined fielding, throwing and hitting.
Turner addressed each group and shared his philosophy behind getting into an optimal fielding position. He then watched as kids fielded ground balls, offering words of encouragement and reminders of the talking points.
Although the camp focused on baseball, part of Turner’s teaching incorporated basketball positioning. It stemmed from there not only being overlap between the two sports but a belief diversity can benefit young athletes.
“One of the things that’s happened now, especially in California, Florida and Texas, where you pretty much have good weather year-round, is baseball gets crammed down kids’ throats for 12 months a year,” Turner told DodgerBlue.com.
“I think it’s good to take a break from it and get into other sports. It really is a different type of athleticism when you’re playing basketball, a different type of athleticism when you’re playing soccer, when you’re playing football.
“I played roller hockey for a couple years when I was growing up. But also what that does is give you that three-month break from the game and makes you kind of yearn to get back on the field. You have that sense of, ‘Oh, it’s baseball season again!’ Where if you’re playing it year-round, yeah, you might be mastering the game of baseball at nine, but it also burns out some kids.”
Turner noted that while he attended seemingly every baseball camp at Cal State Fullerton when he was a child, his summers also entailed riding a bike, playing basketball with his cousins, or simply visiting a local park, and that’s what he hopes to see with today’s youth.
“Just get outside and do something to be active,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be much.”