CATLIN — The memories that Ross Learnard and Cole Taylor made during their playing days for Salt Fork are immeasurable.
The duo helped lead the Storm to back-to-back regional titles and a fourth-place finish in the IHSA Class 1A State Tournament in 2013.
And while their playing days are over, the duo hasn’t forgotten where they came from and the community that they love.
Later this month, Learnard, currently a volunteer assistant coach at Illinois State, and Taylor, an account representative for an insurance company in Effingham, will host the first-ever Vermilion County All-American Baseball Camp at the Catlin Youth Baseball Complex on July 30, 31 and Aug. 1.
“Being in my position at Illinois State, I have some experience being a camp coordinator and thought it was a good idea to start a camp in the community where I grew up and absolutely love,’’ said Learnard, who was a second-team All-American at Purdue in 2017. “I wanted to share some of the knowledge that I’ve been fortunate enough to pick up during my journey in baseball.’’
Learnard, who was a roommate with Taylor when they played at Parkland, thought he should include his right-hand man into the camp.
“Ross sent me a text and I thought it would be something pretty cool to do for our community,’’ said Taylor, who was already planning to take some vacation time during that stretch. “Basically, we want to show these kids what we have learned over the years.’’
Taylor, an third-team All-American at Illinois-Springfield, played one season in minor-league system for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and he acknowledges that he has considered the idea of going into coaching.
“It’s definitely something I thought about it,’’ said Taylor, who has been a part of baseball camps when he played collegiately. “This is going to be a good chance for me to see what it’s like.’’
For Learnard, this camp is an opportunity for him to get off the campus at Illinois State.
“Honestly, I’ve always wanted to do a camp in Catlin,’’ he said. “I’ve learned as a coach that you not only have to take what you know, but you have to be able to communicate it to the players.’’
Both Learnard and Taylor stressed that the first goal of their camp is going to be “fun.’’
“We want to challenge them and make them better, but they have to have fun in the process,’’ Learnard said. “We know that each kid will have a different skill set and we are going to cater this camp to what each kid needs. One kid might need the basic fundamentals, while another kid at the same age, might need more advanced instruction.
“Our mission is to help each kid.’’
Taylor added, “at the end of the day, it’s always just a game.’’
The Vermilion County All-American Baseball Camp will have two sessions each day. The first session, from 10 a.m. until noon, is for rising first graders to fourth graders, while the second session, from 1 until 3 p.m., is for rising fifth graders to eighth graders.
Because of ongoing health concerns regarding COVID-19 pandemic, the camp will provide the safest possible environment for campers and spectators with social distancing, symptom checks, hand sanitizer stations and other precautionary measures.
“We have the use of all three fields, so we will be able to spread the kids out,’’ said Learnard. “Right now, we are looking at 30 kids per session or 60 total, but we will take more if we get them.’’
The camp is open to any and all entrants per NCAA camp and clinic legislation. For information, contact Learnard by e-mail at email@example.com.