By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
After 43 years, Jerry Long joked he “finally graduated’’ from the Enid Baseball Camp Friday.
Long is retiring after 43 years of service. The camp honored him with a new award, the “Jerry Long Goodtime Award,” which goes to the camper who had the most fun. Hunter Jones was the first recipient.
“I finally passed the final test,’’ said Long, 74. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s time for the younger guys who have more energy to do it. It was a good two weeks and I enjoyed the kids. It’s a good time to get out while I can still do it and accomplished something.’’
He said the award was “a neat deal .... we have always tried to make it fun.’’
Long, who played at Enid High and Phillips University, came to work for camp founder Dusty Eby in 1964 while coaching at Hillsdale (before consolidation). The camp is in its 48th year of operation.
Long came back to the camp even for the five years he was coaching at Goddard, Kan.
“It just worked out good,’’ said Long about his career. “I still haven’t taken a summer off work. I’m still driving a (school) bus. When you stop, you stop, and I don’t want to stop.
“It’s still fun teaching. With every group that I worked with, I see some improvement in some phase ... things you can correct kids at that age.’’
Long, who coached baseball, softball, basketball, golf and tennis at EHS, emphasized teaching was different from coaching.
At camp, he could teach without the pressures of having to worry about winning or determining a starting lineup.
“Every kid bats, every kid plays in the games we have,’’ Long said. “They don’t remember if they won or lost. They get to play every position. It’s a different game.’’
The little things gave him the most satisfaction.
“The most fun I had was watching a kid’s face when he finally hits one ... seeing his expression,’’ Long said.
His biggest frustration was seeing a promising camper give up the game because of burnout.
“The thing you worry about is burning a kid out,’’ Long said. “There were some kids who really looked like they were going to be good players, but the next summer when you saw them, they told me they weren’t playing anymore. They were playing on three teams and didn’t have time for anything else. Some kids are OK with that, but it’s not what some kids want to do.’’
Long, the teacher, regretted he didn’t have a camp to go to like that when he was young.
“We just rolled the ball out and played,’’ Long said. “There wasn’t a lot of lot teaching at a young age. I was happy to give kids something that I should have been told for use. I told Joe Record (Long’s coach at Phillips) that I wish somebody told me what I told all those kids.’’
Long, who started in the pre-Title IX days, has seen some social change.
He no longer tells a boy “he throws like a girl.’’
Long’s teaching at the camp would pay off as a softball coach. JaRae Puls and Megan Mayberry, as grade schoolers, held their own with the boys, and would go on to earn All-State softball honors.
“That made both of them a better ballplayer for sure,’’ Long said. “Megan went head-to-toe with the boys.’’
Megan’s little brother, Maddux, won the Dusty Eby Award as the top camper in the 10-under division. He won the award for the most hits.
That was special for Long, who had the Mayberrys’ father Bill as a student teacher at EHS and coached their mother Sissy in softball. Bill is now the camp director.
“Sissy would have made All-State if they had it then,’’ Long said.
A third generation of Ebys was at the camp this year with Dusty Eby being in the six-year-old class. Dusty’s father, Dusty Rex, was an All-State shortstop for Long. Long had assisted Dusty Rex’s dad in both baseball and basketball at Enid.
Long started at the camp in the days of wood bats and holding the camp at the Enid Fairgrounds.
“Dusty was pretty nice about the prices,’’ Long said. “A lot of kids didn’t have a glove, cleats or a bat, but that didn’t matter. I think a lot of parents used us as babysitters, but we still had fun’’
The camp has been at David Allen since 2000. The better facilities, Long said, has given coaches more options, especially with an indoor facility and an artificial turf infield.
Long remembers when he and Dusty Rex Eby had enough 9-10 year-olds to have six full teams and have three games going on at the same time.
It’s still teaching how to field ground balls or how to slide or catching fly balls.
“We try to make it fun,’’ Long said. “We have contests which I think makes them try harder. Some kids get upset if they don’t win a prize, but they get over that in a hurry.’’
And in memory of coach Dusty Eby, teaching bunting. The elder Eby still is referred to as “the bunter’’ by camp alumni.
“You better know how to bunt with Dusty,’’ Long said. “We don’t do it as much as Dusty would teach, but Bill is good at it.’’
Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.