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Legendary lesson: Carew teaches local youth

Rod Carew held a question and answer session with the 47 campers present at the end of the second day of the Minnesota Twins youth camp last week at Bielenberg Sports Complex. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)1 / 2
Rod Carew provides hitting tips to Dylan Pruemer, 10, during Minnesota Twins youth camp last week at Bielenberg Sports Complex. (Bulletin photo by Jace Frederick)2 / 2

Hall of Famer and former Minnesota Twins second baseman Rod Carew sat on a plastic bucket and watched quietly through the mesh netting as youth hitters from the surrounding area took cuts in the cage.

Then, as each hitter wrapped up his round, Carew would call the youngsters over and tell them what he saw in their swings and what they should work on moving forward. His suggestions ranged from having more aggressive swings to taking early strides with the front foot to help with timing.

And as the sluggers stepped into the cage for their second set of hacks, Carew would reiterate those tips after each cut.

“The more they do it, the easier it becomes,” Carew said. “So you have to keep reminding them and reminding them, and that’s what we’re here for. That’s what coaches are supposed to do -- keep reminding them so they can get to that point where when they do it right and hit the ball good, they feel good.”

The hitting lessons were quick, but the tidbits from the Hall of Famer who mastered the skill long ago are invaluable.

Carew spent much of last Tuesday teaching the art of the swing to young players at the Twins Youth Camp at the Bielenberg Sports Complex.

“I remember myself at the same age,” he said. “I didn’t have the opportunity to have coaches that did this because I grew up in a small town, so I’ve always felt that whenever I can give back, that’s what I’d like to do.”

Twins clinician Kent Paulson said while parents are generally enthralled with Carew’s presence, the kids don’t always recognize Carew at first blush. But once they hear about his accomplishments, they’re sold.

It’s hard not to be impressed by a 19-time All-Star with a .328 career batting average who has a Most Valuable Player award to his name.

“That’s when the kids really start to pick it up,” Paulson said.

At the conclusion of the camp the kids had the opportunity to ask Carew anything they wanted to. Questions from the 47 campers on hand ranged from queries about his stats, to the hardest pitcher he ever faced, to who he thought the best current Twins player was.

Carew’s answer to the latter was Joe Mauer, for the record.

Carew taught the kids a few tennis ball tricks like keeping one under your foot to see if you move it or “squash the bug” when you swing, or keeping one under your armpit to help control the length of your swing.

Paulson said even after nine years, he’s still constantly learning things from the Hall of Famer.

“It’s so much easier working the hitting when you’ve got Rod’s instruction,” Paulson said. “Because Rod can break it down and Rod has forgotten more than most of us know. I learned a lot today.”

Afterward it was clear the kids had picked up a few lessons from the baseball legend, as well. Adam Lukes, 13, couldn’t wait to pull his bat out of his bag to demonstrate how Carew worked with him on staying back while in the batter’s box.

Alex Hastings, 13, thought working with Carew was “pretty cool.”

“He taught us some good stuff,” Hastings said. “It’s always good to be with a Hall-of-Famer.”