For 41 years, Robert Sapp has passed his expansive love and knowledge of the sport of baseball on to youngsters all over the state.
On Thursday, the Robert Sapp Baseball Camp continued its Glynn County session in its fourth and penultimate day at Wainwright Field. More than 150 campers between the ages of 6-14 turned out to receive instruction from the longtime camp director.
A former head coach of 35 years with a total win-loss record of 1,041-293-1, Sapp knows the importance of fundamentals in the sport, and along with an experienced staff of adult coaches like Brunswick assistant Kyle Bialousz and former Crisp Academy head coach Chuck Hester, they work to instill those skills in the young campers.
A majority of each morning this week has been spent rotating players through different stations where they learned the basics of bunting, how to run the bases, and how to field the ball. A group of 9-year-old campers concluded the early half of the day Thursday by going “around the horn” catching, crow-hopping and firing from base to base.
But before testing their newly honed skills in-game to wrap up the afternoon, campers ate lunch and took in a video produced by longtime camp sponsor Louisville Sluggler entitled “Heart of the Game,” which featured some of the sport’s all-time greats such as Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson.
“Kids today don’t follow the history of baseball as much as we did in those days, and they could because they’ve got cellphones that can look up anybody,” Sapp said. “I went to just about every baseball game that was played at Edo Miller, the pro teams, so I’ve got that history. When you get older you like to reminisce and tell these young guys what it was like in the old days around here, and some of the older players that were around here.”
Before Sapp won four junior college national championships at Middle Georgia, earned national coach of the year honors four times, or was inducted to the Georgia Dugout Club, he had the significance of the fundamentals passed down to him by Glynn County youth coaching legend Frog Horton.
Sapp went on to play at Glynn Academy under coach Lem Clark before playing the infield at the University of Georgia. He even returned to the county to become Brunswick High’s first basketball coach, leading the program to its first winning record of 15-9 in the 1969-70 season.
Needless to say, there is a lot of history for Sapp in the Golden Isles.
“It no doubt brings back a lot of memories, and I try to get some of those memories in these guys — let them know about Edo Miller Park, the semi pro teams I played on back in the old days, Glynn Academy in my day,” Sapp said. “Of course, I coached at Brunswick too, so I have a lot of fond memories of Glynn County and their sports programs.”
The county is also the location of perhaps the greatest feather in the cap in more than four decades of the Robert Sapp Baseball Camp: the attendance of MLB star Adam Wainwright.
According to Sapp, the story is Wainwright attended the camp when he was 6 years old along with his brother Trey. Although, at the time, 7 was the minimum age for campers, the Wainwright’s mother Nancy convinced Sapp to let her youngest assist the water boy for the time being.
Wainwright fully participated in the camp the following year — and every year into high school, after which, he began serving as camp staff.
Now, the 40-year-old Wainwright is in the midst of his 17th season with the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Robert Sapp Baseball Camp is being held at a complex with his name on it.
“Adam Wainwright is a big part of our camps,” Sapp said. “I think Adam would be proud that we’ve got over 150 kids here who hopefully will have the baseball experience in the park he put money into building.”
Of course, not every camper is Wainwright. Sapp isn’t looking to turn players into pros (although several former campers have gone on to play college and professional baseball).
Instead, Sapp is simply looking to pass along his love of the sport to yet another generation.
“Everybody at Glynn Academy, the athletic directors and coaches have been extremely helpful in getting me here,” Sapp said. It’s hot, but there again, that’s baseball, and we’re trying to teach these kids more than just baseball, but the biggest thing is to just give them a baseball experience.
“Maybe when they’re 40 or 50, they’ll say, ‘I used to play a little baseball.’ That’s what I’m trying to get across to these kids.”