Published in the July 20, 2017 edition

LYNN — Everybody was there. If you grew up in North Reading and played baseball, you simply couldn’t miss it: Frank Carey’s Baseball Academy. Formerly known as the North Reading Baseball Camp, it was the best opportunity to work on your game, and a rite of passage for many North Reading Little Leaguers. I was there 16 years ago and yet the drills still rest comfortably and vividly in my memory. Do you remember the wooden gloves? 

“You have to stay down on those ground balls,” recalls Matt Calos, NRHS class of 2009. 

The fact that it was run by Massachusetts’ all-time winningest coach, made it all the more imperative. 

Frank Carey had to move the camp away from North Reading High School three years ago when the school was under construction. It just wasn’t safe for the kids. Since then, coach Carey has held the camp in Lynn at the Babe Ruth Complex. 

The move away from North Reading, hurt the attendance, especially for the number of North Reading players, but coach Carey was happy to see 10 Hornets at the camp this year, which took place July 10-14. According to Carey, they were easy to point out, mostly due to the number of opportunities provided by North Reading Little League. Carey mentioned former player, and current NRLL director of player development, Marco Vittozzi as somebody who has worked hard to provide players a chance to work on their game. 

“I could clearly see that the North Reading kids were mechanically much sounder,” said Carey, who pointed to clinics that Vittozzi and many North Reading Little League coaches work so hard to put together, as one of the main reasons for the talent gap. 

Vittozzi, a 1981 graduate of NRHS, has been running a three-week skills clinic every February and March for many years now, and while he has picked up plenty of baseball knowledge throughout his life, the fundamentals, skills and life lessons taught to him by Carey as a member of the camp all the way through high school, still serve as the base of his coaching philosophy. 

Vitozzi was happy to hear that 10 North Reading players made the trip to Lynn for coach Carey’s camp.

“The fact that they go proves that they want to improve their skill level, and that’s what you have to do to get better,” said Vitozzi.

Despite the fact that young players today have far more summer camps and other opportunities than ever before, Vitozzi still believes that those who attend Carey’s camp will be players to watch in North Reading for years to come. 

Carey Baseball Academy Award Winners

Accuracy Champ: age 8-11 Nicholas Kokonezis (Lynn); 12-14 Cormac Collins ( Lynn )

Wooden Glove Champ: age 8-11 Jason Curran (No. Reading); 12-14 Luke Rao ( Lynn )

Sliding Champ: age 8-11 Ryan Labb (No. Reading); 12-14 Michael Carr ( Peabody )

Most improved Player: age 8-11 Tommy Gazda (No. Reading); 12-14 Knico Ramirez ( Lynn )

Most Valuable Person: age 8-11 Jackson Wesley (No. Reading); 12-14 Michael Carr (Peabody)