July 15, 2008
With the free baseball clinic used as the main draw and education as the central theme, Santa Clara head baseball coach Mark O'Brien will travel to Kona, Hawaii later this week to provide instruction at a three-day baseball clinic for native Hawaiian youngsters. O'Brien is part of a group of college and high coaches and ex-professional players, organized by Jack Gifford, who are donating their time to assist with the clinic. The clinic also features education seminars for the parents.
The coaching crew includes head coaches from Santa Clara, Stanford, and both University of Hawaii schools, Cal-Berkeley, Indiana State, San Jose State, UCLA (former coach) and Pacific. The former professional players include Tim Leary (Dodgers) and Billy Haselman (Red Sox).
This is the eighth year of the program which also includes education seminars for the parents as well. The clinic, which runs July 18-20 from 7:30 am - 4:30 pm each day, features a morning baseball clinic for kids age 7-12 and then an afternoon clinic for youngsters 13-18. Traveling to Hawaii to assist with the education seminars are the head counselors from Saint Francis High School (Santa Clara, Calif.), headed up Susan Marquess. They work to provide an educational counseling clinic for the parents to help them and encourage them to take the right classes for college.
"Education is the primary theme. Baseball is the hook to get them there, but we stress education during the clinic both on and off the field," said Gifford. Gifford, a '62 UCLA graduate who played baseball for the Bruins, has a close association with college baseball and retired from a very successful career in business and engineering earlier this year. "We give lectures to the parents on the importance of school and taking the right classes so their kids can go to college. There have been a number of kids that have gone through this program that went to college to play baseball, including kids at San Diego State and Saint Mary's. We want the parents to focus on homework and getting the kids into the right classes."
"It's the best camp in the country where head coaches actually do the teaching as opposed to assistant coaches. It serves over 300 children from all over the island. The camp has contributed to the Hawaii Little League and Pony League team's success in the National Championship," said Gifford.
"There are some outstanding kids in Hawaii who don't get a lot of exposure and they aren't always totally educated on what it takes to get into college," said O'Brien, who enters his eighth year at the Bronco helm in 2009. "It's a great reward when you see the smiles on their faces because they find out they have so many opportunities if they take advantage of them through education. Education is the first thing I talk to the kids about. Without education, nobody can do what they really want to do. Education will last a lifetime and I talk to them about how a good education will help them be a success in life. If they can then succeed in baseball, that's just a cherry on top. You won't find a better group of coaches than there are in this group. I can't thank Jack enough for what he does and giving me the opportunity to work the camp."