NORMAN, Okla. – Parents paid hundreds of dollars to send their sons to a youth camp in Norman. They were hoping for a home run but, instead, they said the camp was a strikeout.
Connor, 8, and 6-year-old Beckham participated in a four-day camp put on by Wichita-based American Baseball Camps.
Connor’s mom, Trista, said the whole thing was poorly organized, adding the parents were told of a last-minute location change from Choctaw to a field 45 minutes away in Norman.
“We waited an hour just so that way this field could be mowed,” Trista said. “The grass was so high.”
The city of Norman sent us this statement:
“The city of Norman is not affiliated with American Baseball Camps and was not involved with the planning of this youth baseball camp.”
Parents said the water fountains were broken and the water provided by the camp was gone by early afternoon.
In fact, Trista said her son got sick from the heat, so she was forced to pull him out of the camp.
Beckham’s mom, Melissa, did the same.
“I feel like what was promised to us was definitely not delivered,” Melissa said.
The kids were supposed to be split up by their ages. But, families said that never happened so 6- and 7-year-olds were doing the same drills as 11- and 12-year-olds.
Organizers promised Slip’n’ Slide baseball with kiddie pools for bases, but that didn’t pan out either.
American Baseball Camps advertise one-on-one instruction from big-name instructors.
One local coach who had some professional ball experience was there, and he did have a pair of college-level players helping him.
We know he was hired to host the camp by American Baseball Camps CEO Nick Rotola, who played college ball in Oklahoma and currently suits up for an independent minor league team in Texas.
Lately, Rotola’s not just been stealing bases – but headlines. A TV station in Tulsa reported similar complaints at his youth camp up there.
“We showed up to where the camps are supposed to be on Monday, and no one was there so for about two, two and a half hours we called and called,” said Carolyn Tarrier.
We could never get Rotola on the phone, but he did email us a response calling “80 percent of the accusations invalid, and the other 20 percent dealt with.” He went on to say his camps receive a “98 percent satisfaction rate” for helping “kids fix their problem areas, giving them confidence and teaching them how to be a good teammate.”
In a separate email Rotola sent to Trista and Melissa, he questioned whether his Norman camp director was “failing to meet standards” and said “the camp director’s duties are to hire the right people and train them just as we have trained him.”
The parents told the ‘In Your Corner’ team that the email never addressed their concerns and essentially placed the blame on the camp coach.
We got the camp director and coach on the phone. He told us he received absolutely zero training from Rotola and, in fact, there was very little communication or guidance, period. He went on to tell us he only agreed to fill in as camp director after Rotola called him, saying he had a bunch of kids signed up for camp and no one to coach them.
“I think he was a very good baseball coach,” Melissa said. “I just think he was overwhelmed.”
American Baseball Camps has a fair amount of positive reviews online and even the dissatisfied moms admit it wasn’t a total bust.
“There are parts of it, [the kids] were having fun.”
For the price and trouble, however, they believe a refund is only fair.
So far, Rotola is denying their request.
“But, [he] can give us a heavy discount on next season’s, which why would I want to come back to a camp like this?” Melissa said.
Trista and Melissa also paid extra for a video analysis of their sons’ swings.
Conner’s still hasn’t arrived, and Melissa told us that Beckham’s analysis was pretty basic, with a tip or two, and a link to a YouTube video.
We’ll check back on this one.