When the Phillies star-crossed prospect Jesse Biddle was coming of age playing baseball at summer camp in Philadelphia just over a dozen years ago, he swore by coach Frank Decembrino.
“Frank is an amazing guy,” Biddle said. “I can’t say enough about him as a baseball coach. I learned a lot from him.”
Decembrino, who co-owns the Ambler Sports Academy with his partner Shannon Gunby, is attempting to make baseball an inclusive game once again.
“We’re trying to bring baseball back,” Decembrino said. “There’s a lack of exposure to the game for so many kids since things have changed since I grew up. Back in the day, kids would go to the sandlot for pick-up games but now it’s more like pay to play. It’s disgusting how it’s changed. Now a lot of families spend $2,000 to send their kid to an academy for a few months for false hopes and dreams. What’s sad is that kids are missing out on baseball because it teaches you about life.”
The Ambler Sports Academy has personal lessons, which are reasonably priced but much of the time booked is for teams, which is much less costly for parents. Decembrino is hoping more teams from Philadelphia take advantage of his academy.
The Mount Airy baseball club trains at the Ambler Sports Academy.
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“It’s been great for Mount Airy baseball,” Mount Airy umpire coordinator D.J. Giordano said. “We send some of our travel teams there. The Ambler Sports Academy helps keep the camaraderie going during the winter, builds baseball skills and it’s cost effective, which is so important.”
Perhaps more urban teams will take advantage of the opportunity at Ambler Sports Academy.
“We would love that,” Decembrino said. “We’re a little different here since Shannon and I are both educators.”
Gunby is a middle school teacher at Wissahickon and Decembrino is a physical education instructor at Cheltenham High School, where he was head baseball coach for a decade. But he gave up that gig when he opened the Ambler Baseball Academy.
Decembrino and Gunby make baseball fun. They’ve added Ripken Quickball to its program. Quickball is a rapid version of baseball. Kids can drill extra base hits and score on defense as well and the game teaches skills.
“Kids can learn baseball accidentally through Quickball,” Decembrino said. “It’s a lot of fun and it promotes baseball. When I was a kid I dreamed of being Mike Schmidt and Pete Rose. We want kids to be exposed to baseball and embrace it like Jesse Biddle did. Jesse was always very talented but part of the reason he advanced like he did was because he wanted to play more than anyone else. That kind of love for baseball is awesome to see. There’s no game like it.”
Ambler Sports Academy, 220 S. Maple street, Ambler, 215-628-2100