Derek Lendosky loved to pitch. He looked forward to the day he could throw knuckleballs and sliders past his bewildered opponents. A future star on the mound in the making, Derek was no slouch at the plate either.
“He was a solid hitter,” said Derek’s dad, Steve Lendosky.
Derek tallied four doubles in the 2013 regular season and chipped in four RBIs. He added another double and an RBI in the postseason.
Considering his baseball prowess, it is only fitting the field that bears Derek’s name will host a baseball hitting camp featuring a Milwaukee Brewer great next month.
Rob Deer, an 11-year MLB veteran, will host two camps at Derek Lendosky Community Field on July 5. Campers ages 6-12 are welcome from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., followed by campers ages 13-18 from 2:30 p.m. until 5 p.m.
The Rob Deer Baseball Camp is free to attend. Parents are asked to enroll their children by e-mailing their child’s name and age to firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (608) 988-6222.
Official camp T-shirts will be available for $15 the day of the camp. T-shirt proceeds will benefit the Derek Lendosky Memorial Scholarship Fund. Those interested in a shirt are asked to e-mail or call Steve.
Rob played for the San Francisco Giants, Milwaukee Brewers, Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres in his career, hitting more than 20 home runs for 8 straight years from 1986 to 1993.
Steve, his brother, John, and father, Dennis, met Rob at Milwaukee Brewers Fantasy Camp in February, where Rob was one of 12 coaches.
“I was standing in outfield practice and Greg Vaughn was standing next to me,” Steve recalls. “Rob Deer was hitting everyone fly balls. I said to Greg Vaughn, joking, ‘This is the most contact I have ever seen Rob Deer make.’
“I just happened to be next in line. He goes, ‘Hey Rob, guess what this camper just said?’ I said, ‘No, no, no, no.’ Of course, he told him, Rob chuckled and then jacked it over my head.”
Steve fielded Rob’s long fly ball and personally returned it to him while offering his apologies, but was reassured by Rob, “It is all fun and games at camp here.”
During an evaluation game held the afternoon of the Fantasy Camp’s first day, Steve crushed an in-the-park home run off the left-center wall 375 feet away.
“Rounding third, there is Rob Deer in the middle of the base path with his arms wide open,” Steve recalls. “He said, ‘Give me a hug, brother.’”
While at Milwaukee Brewers Fantasy Camp, Steve met fellow campers Michael Keith and Lanny Schimmel. Michael, a partner in Rob Deer Baseball Camps, lost his girlfriend in an accident while hiking in 1995.
“Michael has stayed in touch since fantasy camp, and he, Lanny and his wife, Lisa, and Rob have talked about wanting to do something special,” Steve said. “They followed the dedication of Derek’s ball field and thought what a better way to give back than an act of kindness on Derek’s field.
“They wanted to give back and do something special, and they thought this would be great.”
Over 150 youngsters had enrolled in the July 5 camp as of Tuesday morning. Thanks to professional photographer Ted Connelly, each camper will have an opportunity to have their picture taken with Rob.
A free community barbecue will be held following the camp, which will provide campers and their parents an opportunity to meet and greet Rob. Several Fennimore-area residents have pledged donations to the barbecue.
“All these people are saying, ‘I want to help,’” Steve said. “It is proof that this community is absolutely amazing. Everybody wants to step forward and help out and do these wonderful things.
“We will never be able repay everyone for all the kindness that they have shown our family out of support for Derek. It is humbling to know all these people are doing all these wonderful things for us.”
In addition, two inflatable bounce houses will be available to entertain youngsters throughout the day’s festivities.
A Brewers fan growing up in the 1980s, Steve was a fan of Rob’s long before their meeting at Fantasy Camp.
“I used to hold up a ‘Deer Crossing’ sign made out of paper when we were in the bleachers,” Steve said. “I thought about seeing if there were a bunch of deer crossing signs around we could put up and down the field.”
Steve cheered as Rob hit towering home runs, but he also witnessed a strikeout or two.
“I like that one of the mottos of the Rob Deer Baseball Camp is ‘Do as I say, not as I did,’” Steve said.
Rob has served as Head of Minor League Hitting for the San Diego Padres. He was also an Assistant Hitting Coach for the Chicago Cubs. He shared his thoughts Monday concerning the reaction to the “Do It For Derek” campaign, and the creation of Derek Lendosky Community Field.
“I was amazed by the reaction as I followed it on Facebook – the resolve of not only the Lendosky family but the efforts put forth by the community to help one another achieve this goal of building a beautiful baseball field in honor of this little guy,” he said. “So Mike, Lisa, Lanny and myself put our heads together and tried to come up with a way that we could ‘pay it forward.’”
At one point, Rob and his team had contemplated inviting the Lendosky family to Milwaukee for a Rob Deer Baseball Camp, but then began to dream bigger.
“After seeing that this was a community project and a town where everyone pitched in we decided to come to Fennimore for everyone,” Rob said. “We are excited to come and give this to Fennimore, but honestly I am humbled that God gave me the ability to not only play and coach a game I love so dearly, but the fact that God has led me to Fennimore to assist in the further healing of Fennimore.”