This August, ex-Mariner Ryan Rowland-Smith and past teammate Trent Oeltjen will bring their world-class camp, NxtGen Baseball, to Bellevue. The three-day camp includes plenty of training drills and skill development. But Rowland-Smith says the most important thing is the one-on-one interaction the kids have with them and each other. “Growing up in Australia, we didn’t have access to high-quality coaches. So having the chance to do that for these kids is what we’re passionate about. It’s fun for us to give every ounce of energy we have,” he says. Reflections talked to Rowland-Smith about how and why he started NxtGen.
Reflections magazine: Why did you start NxtGen camps?
Ryan Rowland-Smith: My business partner, Trent [Oeltjen], and I have known each other since we were 12 years old and we went on to play in the big leagues together. We talked a few years ago and asked: How can we give back to the kids of Australia? How can we make an impact? So we came up with the idea for a camp.
RM: Why did you bring NxtGen to Bellevue?
RRS: I live in Seattle now, and it feels like home. That makes it easy to be passionate about the kids here. Plus, in Bellevue there is such a good network of families. The kids are hungry and excited enough to come out. We want to tell these kids that if two guys from Australia can do it, so can you.
RM: What did sports bring to your life as a young athlete?
RRS: The physical activity first and foremost. But kids need opportunities for face-to face contact with peers, teachers and mentors. Especially with this generation. Social media can bring people together, but it also isolates them. It’s refreshing for kids to have a mentor and role model look them right in the eye and express the value of pursuing something.
RM: What are some of the most memorable moments from camps in the past?
RRS: The moments that affect me are when parents tell me their kids came out of their shell. It doesn’t have to be all about getting into the big leagues. We just want them to be passionate about something, be the best version of themselves.
Meet the Players
From the World Baseball Classic to winning a silver medal in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games to succeeding in Major League Baseball, Trent has done it all during his professional career that spans 14 years. Trent played Major League Baseball for the LA Dodgers from 2010 to 2012 and for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009. He also represented Team Australia at numerous international events.
Ryan Rowland-Smith played five seasons of Major League Baseball, four with the Seattle Mariners and one with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He also represented Australia numerous times, including the 2004 Summer Olympic in Athens on the silver-medal-winning team. The left-hander carved out 15 years of professional baseball and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience.
Members can enroll in the camp for a discounted rate. Visit nxtgenbaseball.com/camp/ for more information.