What if the University of Kentucky held a baseball camp in Owensboro and nobody came?
That was very nearly the case Monday morning at Jack C. Fisher Park, where only nine campers showed up for the UK Baseball School's satellite camp.
So bad was the attendance that Tuesday's scheduled instruction was canceled by UK baseball camps director Jeremy Sheetinger, a former Kentucky Wesleyan player who later coached in Owensboro.
"It was a really awkward moment between myself and my head coach (Gary Henderson), when only nine showed up," Sheetinger said. "We had a great article in the (Messenger-Inquirer) previewing the camp, Cyndi Sturgeon (director) of Owensboro Parks and Recreation provided us with a great database of city and county youth baseball contacts — we thought we were set.
"I think the cost ($150 per camper) is the biggest hang-up for the parents, and I get that — but this not your standard camp. This is the University of Kentucky putting this on. We were prepared to teach and instruct many, many more kids than we had show up."
There were, in fact, at least two instructors per camper. Thirteen of 18 coaches who had committed to working the two-day camp went home (including Henderson), with five remaining to instruct nine players.
"You could tell that UK was prepared for a much larger turnout," said Jeff Williams, whose 11-year-old son, Caleb, attended. "I was shocked more campers were not there."
Monday's camp ran from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., as scheduled, but the campers will receive full refunds from UK, Sheetinger said.
Williams said those campers who did attend seemed to enjoy themselves.
"Oh, I think the kids had great instruction and really had fun participating," he said. "But I'm disappointed in the community the way this turned out. I feel bad for the University of Kentucky — this may be a ruined chance going forward for the city of Owensboro."
Owensboro, however, is not alone in its lack of support for UK's satellite camps.
Sheetinger confirmed on Monday night that the UK camp scheduled Thursday and Friday in Somerset also has been canceled.
"In both Owensboro and Somerset, we only had about five online registrations," Sheetinger said. "We came on down to Owensboro believing a lot of kids would show up the day of, so to speak, but it didn't turn out that way."
Tentatively, UK satellite camps in Paducah (July 10-11) and Alexandria (July 24-25) will go on as planned.
"We have people in those communities who have been willing to pass out brochures at youth-league games, and have direct contact with up to a couple of thousand kids," Sheetinger said.
He said UK needed 30 campers to attend Monday's camp just to break even, and that the coaching staff will re-evaluate its approach entirely.
"I don't know if satellite camps are a viable option in the future," Sheetinger said. "We need to study this thing long and hard and figure out whether or not it's worth it.
"You can't travel across the state and lose money — so, I'm not sure what the future holds."