About 250 campers from all over the country signed up to participate in the ProCamps Fantasy Experience featuring Mookie Betts. The furthest a camper traveled was all the way from California.
SUDBURY — “If you could play catch with anybody in the world, who would you want to play catch with?”
That is the question that Bob Crandall of Bellingham asked his 7-year-old son, Matt, on Wednesday.
“We surprised him yesterday,” Crandall said Thursday while watching his son Matthew at the ProCamps Fantasy Experience clinic featuring Red Sox star Mookie Betts held at Lincoln-Sudbury High School. “He looked at me and was like, ‘What do you mean? Mookie Betts.’”
Like many kids participating in the camp, the reigning American League MVP is Matthew’s favorite player.
“He just finished playing a summer league All-Stars,” Matt’s father said. “He wore No. 50. Most kids want to be No. 1 but he wanted to be 50 and everyone was like ‘Why 50? You want to be a football player?’ And no, it’s Mookie Betts.”
Matthew was so excited to see Betts at the camp that he was up and ready to go by breakfast. Camp didn’t start until 3 p.m.
Covered the@mookiebetts@ProCamps at Lincoln-Sudbury High School for@MetroWestSports. Here is Mookie practicing grounders with some campers.pic.twitter.com/C1XAtOI371
— Ethan Winter (@EWints)August 15, 2019
“We weren’t planning on leaving until 1, maybe 2 o’clock but at 7:30 this morning he was all ready to go with his cleats and baseball pants on,” Bob Crandall said.
While Matthew wasn’t able to play catch with the Red Sox All-Star outfielder, he was able to get a hit off of him during their mini-games at the end of camp.
“He pitched to us when we were hitting,” Matthew said. “It was really fun.”
For others, it was more than just a fun day at camp with Mookie Betts. It was a bright spot in an otherwise grueling battle for Nicholas Corapi, 10, of Uxbridge.
“He’s got kidney failure,” Nicholas’ father Joe said. “So he’s on dialysis every other day and is waiting for a kidney transplant.”
An employee at Boston Children’s Hospital helped get Nicholas registered for the Mookie Betts camp as VIP guests, meaning that he got to meet Betts outside of the normal camp interaction with Mookie.
“It was amazing,” said Nicholas on getting the opportunity to meet Mookie.
The Corapis have found a live kidney donor, but are waiting for tests to be completed before they can schedule a transfer date for Nicholas.
Despite the circumstances that Nicholas has had to go through, nothing could dim the smile on his face from meeting Mookie.
And he wasn’t the only one.
Everywhere you looked, there were smiles on kids’ faces.
“For sure,” Betts said on whether seeing smiles on kids’ faces was worth giving up his off day. “To hear so many kids say that ‘you’re my role model’ and those type of things, you understand that you are being looked at every day.
“You have to keep that in mind. They say, ‘I’m going to the game Thursday,’ or ‘I went to the game last week.’ You forget that there are always people watching you so they make sure that they let you know.”
Seeing kids smile today at his@mookiebetts@ProCamps definitely made it worth giving up his off day today@MetroWestSportspic.twitter.com/C1LyTm2pMx
— Ethan Winter (@EWints)August 15, 2019
About 250 campers from all over the country signed up to participate in the Mookie Betts clinic. The furthest a camper traveled was all the way from California.
It is the second ProCamps Fantasy Experience that Lincoln-Sudbury High School had hosted this summer. About three weeks ago, Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman hosted a football clinic at L-S back on July 20.
“I think it’s wonderful,” said Sudbury resident Alison Whitebone. While she didn’t have a child participating in the camp, she still brought her son to come by and check it out. “Our town loves sports and we love Boston sports. It’s great and it’s inspiring especially to the little ones.”
Whitebone admitted that they missed the registration for the clinic but her son Noah hopes to do it next year.
Jennifer Barrett from Medway signed up both of her sons, Max, 8, and Russell, 6, for the camp as a birthday gift.
“It’s a wonderful experience for them to get to meet Mookie and to also just play baseball,” Barrett said. “They love baseball.”
Fortunately for the parents and campers it wasn’t nearly as hot out as it was for the Julian Edelman camp just three and a half weeks prior.
“The weather worked out perfect,” Bob Crandall said. “I heard that (the Edelman camp) was like 110 (degrees).”
Kelly Mazza, a Hudson resident and teacher at Lincoln-Sudbury, got an early heads-up about the camp in a staff email and signed up her son, Carter.
Carter ended up participating in a home run derby facing Betts as the pitcher.
“It was really great,” Carter said on participating in the home run derby with Mookie pitching to him.
Not only does holding camps like ProCamps make a difference in these kids’ lives, but it potentially has an even bigger impact on growing the game of baseball among the younger generation.
“Obviously the more kids that you get into baseball the more it’s going to grow,” Betts said. “If there are things that we can do at the Major League level like this type of thing that can grow it, this is definitely step one.”
Ethan Winter is a senior multimedia sports journalist at the MetroWest Daily News. He can be reached at 508-626-3987 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @EWints.