By Bret Mckeand
Eighty youngsters living in foster care homes, or in low-income areas throughout the Valley, have an opportunity to attend a summer baseball camp.
The youths can attend for free thanks to former Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Chad Moeller and a grant from the Sports Fund of Arizona.
The Sports Fund of Arizona, administered by the Arizona Community Foundation, recently provided a $12,500 grant to fund scholarships for 80 youngsters to attend CM Baseball League’s summer baseball camps in Scottsdale.
The grant will allow youths between the ages of 7 and 15 the opportunity to attend one of the eight-week long summer day camp sessions offered by the league.
The league and summer camps are the brainchild of Chad Moeller, former Major League Baseball player whose career included stints with the Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Cincinnati Reds, Baltimore Orioles and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Mr. Moeller also owns and operates Scottsdale Batting Cages, a for-profit business that provides personal instruction and batting cages for baseball, softball and cricket players.
His CM Baseball League, however, is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to provide instruction, camps and clinics to children throughout the Valley. Grants provide funds to cover the costs for those unable to afford tuition fees.
The batting cages were closed in March due to the statewide shutdown of businesses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the shutdown, Mr. Moeller researched how to safely reopen and conduct a summer camp and sports clinic.
The clinic recently reopened and in addition to masks and social distancing, a number of safety precautions have been adopted: Baseballs are sprayed with rubbing alcohol between use, the turf is disinfected twice a day and all surfaces are constantly cleaned.
There are eight summer camp sessions held this summer. The number of participants has been reduced by 50% and camp hours have been cut by two hours per day.
CM Baseball is dedicated to advancing each player’s skills and confidence. Accomplished coaches from collegiate, professional and high school ranks aim to teach players the correct way to play the game and to learn life skills and sportsmanship through the camps, clinics and competitive teams.
As a former professional ballplayer and now father of two sons, Mr. Moeller started his own camp in 2011 after realizing young players were in desperate need of good coaching.
“The coaching I was seeing from other programs really frustrated me, so I felt I either needed to stop complaining about poor coaches or come up with a different solution,” said Mr. Moeller.
The camps are held primarily in the summer and winter while kids are off from school. The camps also eventually led to the creation of his own competitive club team, Team Dinger.
Attendees come from throughout the Valley and Mr. Moeller works closely with several school districts to share news of the scholarships with those who need financial assistance.
“The schools share camp information with foster families with youths and families that are on the free- and reduced-lunch plan,” says Mr. Moeller.
“CM Baseball works with our referring partners to make sure that anyone interested in summer baseball camp has the opportunity to attend.”
Skills taught at the camp include base running, sliding correctly, catching, throwing, pitching, hitting and playing different positions.
Attendees are divided into groups and go through different rotations throughout the day. Lunch is served daily. Donations and grants also help pay for the camp instructors and team coaches.
“I want kids that want to learn and play to get the best instruction possible. That means qualified coaches. I am different from almost every other team in the Valley because I don’t allow parents to be the coaches with any of the teams,” said Mr. Moeller.
“It makes it more expensive, but it also removes any bias that takes place if a parent is coaching or writing a lineup.”
Coaching young ballplayers wasn’t what Mr. Moeller had intended when his playing days were through. He envisaged a front-office job working for a MLB team.
“I started doing some lessons just after getting released (from MLB) in 2011 and realized I liked teaching more than I thought I would. And it grew from there,” he said.
“Lessons, to clinics, then camps, followed by purchasing a building in 2011. The teams followed shortly after and that’s when I started the CM Baseball League 501(c)3 so I could teach and train a wider range of player and not just the ones that had larger resources.”
All camps are held 9 a.m.-2 p.m. five days a week at the Scottsdale Batting Cages, an 8,000-square-foot air-conditioned facility at 7498 E. Monte Cristo Ave., Scottsdale.
Editor’s Note: Bret Mckeand serves as senior executive editor for Independent Newsmedia.