ENID, Okla. — With the high school baseball season canceled, Enid Plainsmen head coach Brad Gore wanted to find a way to keep his players engaged during the unexpected downtime brought about by the coronavirus-related shutdown and at the same time encourage others to stay active.
That was the impetus behind the "Enid Baseball 2020 Virtual Skills Camp" series of three videos that debuted on YouTube Sunday and already had over 550 views on Tuesday.
When someone like seven-time Major League Baseball All-Star and World Series champion Matt Holliday makes an appearance in your video, it also lends instant credibility. Holliday was just one of several well-known names from the baseball world that joined EHS coaches, players, alumni as well as college coaches and even a Major League scout.
But Gore admits to committing a little bit of larceny in the beginning.
"I saw where Coach (Gerrett) Spears at Kingfisher had done a basketball camp like that and I thought why couldn't I do a baseball camp," Gore said Tuesday. "It's something similar but not exactly the same, but I kind of stole the idea from him." Prior to becoming Kingfisher girls basketball head coach, Spears was the Enid Pacers basketball head coach.
Gore said the video series was produced for all youth baseball players.
"We did it to keep our kids motivated and in the right direction and to know that we still care about them," he said. "We want to continue working on our game, but we did it for baseball players in general."
The series is broken into three parts. Part 1 focuses on offense, Part 2 on pitching and stretching and Part 3 is focused on defense.
Most of Enid's current players participated in the virtual camp videos, providing instruction, even if it was a bit awkward initially for many of them.
"It kind of put them in a little uncomfortable place, putting yourself in front of the camera, having to teach and knowing people were going to see it," Gore said. "It's good to get out of your comfort zone," he told son Conner, who participated in the videos with his Plainsmen teammates.
Joining current Plainsmen were recent former alumni, including Bradan Pierce (Oral Roberts University), Ambren Voitik (Northern Oklahoma College Enid), Hayden Priest (NOC Tonkawa) and Jonny Chavez (East Central University). "They're true Plainsmen," Gore said. He also said there were some other alumni who, well, didn't make the cut, but not because they didn't have valuable input to add.
"I had another couple of guys, but they were kinda breaking the law," said Gore, who was quick to clarify he was referring to some of the coronavirus restrictions.
Joining Gore from the Plainsmen coaching staff was Dennom Sullivan.
But it wasn't limited to current or former Enid Plainsmen.
Making appearances in the video series were Oklahoma State baseball coach Josh Holliday and younger brother Matt, who retired after a highly successful career and joined Josh Holliday's Cowboys coaching staff.
Also offering encouragement, pep talks and words of wisdom were NOC Enid head coach Scott Mansfield, West Virginia assistant coach Steve Sabins and Southern Nazarene assistant coach Luke Yost. They were joined by Seattle Mariners infielder Donnie Walton and Chicago Cubs regional scout Todd George.
Gore was able to draw upon his connections from his own highly successful collegiate career at Oklahoma State.
"I'm pretty blessed," he said. "I've got a lot of good friends that are good baseball people. Man, all I had to do was ask and they were more than happy to do it. Just having that reinforcement from the coaches and even a big-leaguer or two, it's a pretty neat deal."
When Matt Holliday tells you "don't sit on Fortnite for hours at a time" and to keep active, it's bound to make an impression.
Gore said he has been happy with how many people have responded positively to the videos.
"I actually had two guys from Tonkawa and Salina and even a guy out of state who asked me if I cared if they shared, and I was like no, that's exactly what we did it for you was for kids to be able to do something at home or wherever they're at," Gore said.
"It's been cool. I've had a lot parents with little kids text me that said 'thanks for doing this.' It gives their kids something to look forward to. It's been a pretty good experience."
Connie Mack season still in play
Gore said he's "holding out hope" that Connie Mack baseball will still be played this summer at David Allen Memorial Ballpark. "Even if it's July, we can still host two or three tournaments and play some more," he said. He said that May 1 "is a good date to shoot for to know what will happen."
Gore said the Enid Majors' head coach will be Vici High School baseball coach Kris Webb. Webb succeeds Chris Jensen who stepped away after the 2019 season after a long coaching run with the Majors, including serving as the Majors' head coach from 2010-19.
Until the coronavirus pandemic hit, Gore said there were plans to have two Enid high school baseball teams and a junior high team participating in Connie Mack. He remains hopeful that can still happen.
"If we have time and everything goes as planned, we'll still make it happen," he said. "We're going to play baseball hopefully at some point. I am just trying to stay positive with it. I know our kids are wanting to play."