Burroughs Softball Future Stars Camp Roaring Success

A record number of softball campers are running, throwing, catching and pitching during the five-day, three-hour sessions at Olive Park.

A record number of girls attended the Burroughs Future Stars Softball Camp. (Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

By Rick Assad

On the fourth day of five three-hour sessions at the Burroughs High Future Stars Softball Camp at Olive Park, a record number of girls were in attendance, pitching, catching, fielding, throwing and running Thursday.

Under the direction of Doug Nicol, the longtime head coach of the Bears and his staff that included Katie Taix, Laban Freeman, Krystin Thomas, Sheila Oasay and Louie Binda, the more than sixty girls between eight and 14 years old were ready for action.

“We had this camp for many years and then when COVID came, we didn’t do it anymore,” Nicol said while wearing a vintage Reggie Jackson Angels jersey. “This is our chance to give back to the community and to show kids that love the game of softball, maybe different stuff that they’ve never picked up. It’s a win-win. For us it’s a chance for the campers to work on different skills. It’s great for my players to give back. It’s a chance to get out in the summer, run around and enjoy the game of softball.”

Nicol talked about the goal of the camp.

“What you’re really doing is giving these kids the tools. In five days, you’re trying to give them as many tools as you can,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have to take what you learned and work on it somewhere else. We’re just trying to touch bases with them. To give them some ideas. Show them techniques. Maybe a different way of doing things.”

Nicol went on: “What makes a really good player is what they do outside of an organized practice,” he said. “Even at the high school level, you have to work harder than just your practices.”

A young softball player tries to hit the ball at the Burroughs Future Stars Camp. (Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

Sporting a navy blue and gold College of the Canyons softball jersey that Taix wore in college as a member of the Cougars with number 57, which her father donned when he played in college, the Burroughs varsity associate coach and pitching coach liked what she saw.

“I think this is a really cool community. You have kids from so many different schools here in Burbank and Crescenta Valley, and to see them all unite as one from all these different communities, it’s pretty cool to see,” she said.

Taix pointed out that the entire staff and campers make this event special.

“I think overall our coaching staff has really been doing a great job of breaking down the mechanics, let alone showing them new things and some of these girls have been saying comments like, “oh my gosh, I really like this drill.” And you can tell they want to keep going and keep doing it and it’s showing them a new love for the game,” she said. “They may have tried catching today or pitching today and they love this game.”

Like so many who played softball, there is something about the game that Taix hopes these young campers will also be attracted to.

“They want to keep going and they want to keep doing it and they’ve shown new ways to love this game,” she said. “The great part of this game is the ways you can fall in love and help build them as an individual on and off the field. They’re talking more. It builds confidence. They look at our high school girls and they’re inspired, and they want to be in their shoes someday.”

Freeman is an assistant coach and outfield coach for the Bears and wore a Sandy Koufax road gray tee-shirt and thinks that having a successful softball program like Burroughs helps.

“The kids are really enjoying it. They’re learning a lot of different things. A lot of fielding. A lot of hitting and a lot of running and they’re all getting along with each other, which is a great thing. When they leave here, they’re going to be doing a lot better on the team they play for,” he said. “This is going to help the kids who want to play softball in the future.”

Burroughs associate coach and pitching coach Katie Taix works with a young camper. (Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

Wearing an Eli Manning New York Giants jersey, Thomas, who is the Burroughs junior varsity softball coach and was thrilled to see so many campers.

“Since I was four years old, I actually started at Olive No. 1. I started to love the game,” she said. “Before we teach anything, we want to teach them to love the game. We want to teach them to love the practice and to love the work. Our culture at Burroughs is to love the work.”

This five-day camp is something Thomas has wanted to witness for a long time.

“It has been my dream in Burbank to do something like this. This is the first camp I’ve seen in Burbank that has this many kids, ever,” she said. “The fact that this sport is growing in our city right now, it makes my heart explode.”

That the current and former players and current seniors showed up and assisted in the drills, makes it even more sweet for Thomas.

“Another cool thing to see is some of our seniors Rachel [Little], Laurel [Piper], Stevie [Dabbadie], Lilly [Lewis]. You have to run a special program for the girls who are done passing it along,” she said. “When you show a kid how to field, when you see it, it’s a surreal thing. It’s an amazing thing.”

Oasay is a longtime assistant coach at Burroughs and was excited to see the campers do so well.

“We haven’t done this camp in a long time. The turnout is phenomenal. These little kids and big kids are having a blast. Our players that are helping us, they’re all here on their own,” she said. “They don’t have to be here. They came because they love this program.”

Oasay also knows that the campers at Olive Park are perhaps going to play softball at some level.

“My hope as a coach is to work with these little kids and teach them to love softball and have fun with it,” she said. “It’s okay if a ball goes behind you. Just go get it. Everything is okay to build that confidence.”

Oasay pointed out that many campers admire the girls on the Burroughs softball team.

Burroughs senior pitcher Stevie Dabbadie is working on base running with several young campers. (Photo by Austin Gebhardt)

“They look up to these players,” she said. “These little kids are going to take and remember these moments in life.”

An assistant on the Burroughs junior varsity softball team and an assistant on the Bears’ varsity girls’ soccer team, Binda, who donned an Angels jersey, has been on the sidelines for half a century.

“I’ve been coaching for over 50 years, and I’ve always felt I get more out of it than what I put into it. When you watch these kids and see them and they look up to these girls, not so much the adults, but the Burroughs girls, when they’re working with these kids. The Burroughs girls are like rock stars to these kids,” he noted. “They idolize them because they can do things they can’t. It’s so much easier for older girls to work with the younger girls. The [Burroughs] girls are what these kids want to be.”

Kayla Salazar is 12 years old and attends Dolores Huerta Middle School and is a pitcher.

“I love Burroughs and I love what they’re about and just wanted to come and have fun,” she said. “I want to work on my fielding skills and my softball IQ.”

Ten-year old McKinley Elementary student Erica Vargas also plays softball.

“I like the camp. I’m trying to be a better athlete. I want to go to Burroughs,” she said.

The day began by loosening up with a short run, dynamics and light sprints and it was uniform day, in which the coaches and campers could wear the team jersey of their choice.

Ladders followed and a throwing progression was next. Outfield relays followed and then picks, and ground balls followed. Ground balls rolling was next on the agenda.

A brief rest for liquid was next and position breakouts followed and that included pitching, catching, infield work and outfield work.

A light snack break was next and hitting basics followed. There was more hitting, fielding, running drills and games.

A three-bat drill was next in line and included a beat the ball drill and run it out drill. Lastly, it was time to clean up and talk to the excited campers.