Willis cancels annual baseball camp for this year

December 31, 2009 8:06:00 AM



Still feeling the pain of losing his mother, Kent Willis has decided to postpone his Straight Path Baseball Camp for a year. 


The minor league pitching coordinator for the Atlanta Braves organization canceled the camp after his mother, Willie Mae Willis, of Columbus, passed away Nov. 12. She was 76. 


The camp was scheduled for Jan. 16-17 at Propst Park in Columbus. It was to be the seventh consecutive year for Willis to host the camp in his hometown. 


"It''s truly disappointing, but again I''ve lost my mother," Willis said. "It''s been quite a stressful time for me. I''m trying to put the pieces back together and move on. She was a very integral part of my upbringing. She helped me develop into the person I''ve become. It''s been tough accepting it. As time goes on it will be OK, but right now I''ve been having a hard time adjusting in my personal life." 


Willis, 46, a 1982 graduate of Lee High School in Columbus, said the camp will resume in 2011. 


Willis had invited Atlanta Braves prospects Freddie Freeman (first baseman), Deunte Heath (pitcher), Brandon Jones (outfielder), and Jordan Schafer (outfielder) to be instructors at the camp before having to postpone. 


Also expected to return as camp instructors were former major leaguers Mo Sanford and Franklin Stubbs and Ronnie Richardson, who made it to Double-A in the Boston Red Sox organization. They have been instructors since the first year of the camp in 2004. 


"It was tough for them," Willis said. "We have bonded tremendously together. We plan to make it bigger and better next year. They told me, ''Take care of yourself and get this behind you and we support what you''re doing and we''re looking forward to bringing it back.'' They love working with the kids. It''s an exciting time for us." 


Willis said it has been difficult to be in Columbus to take care of his mother''s affairs. 


"I''ve been in and out, but it''s been tough to come back to the house," he said. "I''ve been trying as much as I can to avoid it. I just need some time away from there to accept (his mother''s death)." 


Willis pitched for four years in the Cincinnati, Kansas City, and Montreal minor league organizations. He made it as high as Double-A in 1989. 


Willis joined the Braves'' organization as a coach in 1996.