SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — With warm weather, blue skies and sunny days, baseball season never ends in Arizona. So the opportunity to grow the sport is available all year.
That included on Friday, when more than a dozen former Major League players came to Scottsdale Stadium to teach local youth about baseball. As part of the MLB Players Alumni Association’s Legends for Youth baseball clinic series, the players ran various drills for the more than 300 kids in attendance, teaching them about the sport, life lessons and more.
“The kids always work hard and are respectful,” said former pitcher Willie Adams, who played 10 professional seasons in the Oakland A’s and Boston Red Sox organizations, including two for the A’s in 1996-97. “I’ve done several of the camps through Major League Baseball, this is my second one here, and this is one of my favorite ones. It’s a nice venue, and everything’s just first-class run.”
Friday’s clinic operated in conjunction with the Scottsdale Charros, a local non-profit group that aims to build the community through youth sports, education and charitable causes.
Adams instructed a baserunning drill along with former pitcher Albie Lopez, who played 11 Major League seasons and won the World Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. During the drill, Adams and Lopez taught the children the importance of hustling to first base and not stepping on the top of the bag, but on the side of it to avoid tripping.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys that have played the game a long time and have a lot of information to offer,” Adams said. “Just a lot of wide eyes and lots of good questions [from the children], they come attentive and really want to learn.”
During the 90-minute clinic, the children separated into multiple groups based on age and rotated through stations. After participating in the baserunning drill led by Adams and Lopez, they moved to a station that involved playing catch with former MLB pitcher Ray King.
King, who played for six teams during his 10-year career in the Majors, said he has been assisting with various camps and clinics for the past five-to-six years, and he enjoys the opportunity.
“Baseball is a game that we all played when we were 8 years old, until you take the uniform off for the last time,” King said. “It’s great to go out and have fun with the kids and see their excitement, and they want to know who you are and things like that. It keeps us young.”
The children in attendance came from local schools, receiving a midday break to participate in the clinic, meet the former big league players and have fun. King’s favorite part of volunteering is seeing that enjoyment from the participants.
“Talking to the kids and playing catch with them, and sometimes having that smile on their face to where no matter what they’re going through — could be at home, could be at school — it’s just a chance to come on the baseball field,” King said. “Like when I came on, once you come on the field, nothing else matters. The same thing with these kids, it’s a chance to have fun.”