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For more than the love of the game

SIERRA VISTA — The Royals, a Tucson travel softball organization, gave back to the athletes of Sierra Vista and Cochise County Saturday morning with a camp at Domingo Piaz Softball.

More than 100 girls, ages 4 to 18 years old, took the fields with current players on the 03 Royal teams, coaches from the organization — including Ray Camacho, co-owner of the Royals and volunteer softball coach for the University of Arizona softball team — and three former Wildcat softball players.

Chuck Cunningham, a Sierra Vista resident and volunteer coach with the Royals, had the idea to host a camp in Sierra Vista because there isn’t anything like it in the community and because some of the girls are also from the area.

Almost all of the participants in Saturday’s camp are from Cochise County and include players from Willcox and Douglas.

Camacho said that he hopes the camp can become a yearly event for the girls in Cochise County.

The Royals travel softball organization was started in 1980 by Camacho’s mother Belen Camacho. She was very involved in the softball community in Tucson, especially for the youth. When she started the club it was just one team and she served as the coach for the 18U teams.

Belen passed away in 1994 after a battle with breast cancer. Ray and his brother started the program back up four years ago with four teams: 18U, 16U and two 14U teams.

The Herald/Review recently sat down with Ray Camacho to ask him about the camp, coaching and the game itself.

HR: What made you and your brother want to bring back the organization?

Ray Camacho: Her (Belen). I mean just her legacy. I don’t want her to every be forgotten. She did a lot for youth sports in Tucson for girls. She was a big deal in the girls softball community. She was inducted into the Pima County Softball Hall of Fame in 1978 ... until the day she passed, she was still coaching.

HR: What do you hope the girls take away from the camp?

RC: I just hope they, first of all, they enjoy it and they have fun. I’m sure they’re going to be star struck seeing these past Arizona players but I just want them to understand, because they are so young, the fundamentals of softball. The fundamentals, you know, to hopefully help them get better.

It’s only a four-hour camp, so there won’t be miracles, but I just want them to learn to love the game. It’s a beautiful game. So I just want them to love the game, because it’s a fulfilling game. Make them understand it’s a game of failure, but it has its rewards.

HR: Why have such a large emphasis on fundamentals?

RC: Fundamentals are important in any sport you play, especially if you’re young and can learn to be fundamentally sound you’re just going to be a much better player in any sport you play.

Fundamentals are really, really important, no matter at what level. I mean, even at the University of Arizona, they still have to be fundamentally sound. We do the same drills over and over and over again just so the fundamentals are muscle memory. To me, fundamentals are the most important part of any sport.”

If one of these little girls can take away from this camp something they can use for a lifetime, the fundamentals to play the game better, then we did our job.”

HR: How long have you been coaching?

RC: Probably since the early ’90s. I was a high school baseball coach for six years and I’ve been with the University of Arizona for three seasons.

HR: What do you like about coaching?

RC: I love coaching, I don’t like it. I love teaching. I’ll tell you, softball is just beautiful game. I love teaching how to play it properly, how to play it hard. A lot of people play the game and don’t understand, don’t know the game. It also teaches you a lot of life skills. I like to teach not only softball but life skills.

These are young kids with young minds. It’s in my blood. That’s the only way I can explain it. I don’t see myself doing anything else. It’s for the love of the game is an understatement.

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