DETROIT -- Local children had a double All-Star treat at the John Hancock All-Star FanFest. New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Detroit Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez gave youth baseball skills clinics at the Diamond on Tuesday afternoon. The lucky kids, from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan and Detroit's After School All-Stars program, were happy to spend time with the players. Dominic Pena from the B&GC of Southeastern Michigan said he is a Yankees and Tigers fan, so it was exciting for him to see A-Rod and Pudge at the FanFest clinics.
"It was kind of cool, a very good experience," Pena said. He said he plays baseball in a local youth league in Detroit. At each clinic, the players taught fielding and throwing, hitting, and running and sliding techniques. The children had fun learning new skills and listened to all the tips the big leaguers had to offer. Pena said he learned some tips in the Nike & The Sports Authority Clinic given by Alex Rodriguez that he could take with him, such as "how to tag somebody when they're coming to the base." A-Rod also gave the kids some good pointers on hitting. He said "the key about hitting is not trying to hit, the key about hitting home runs is not trying to hit home runs." He said hitting should be fun and "no stress." "When you swing the bat, you want to hold it very lightly," he said. "Step into it ... don't stretch at the plate; the minute you have to stretch, you lose accuracy. Your actions should be very smooth [in the batter's box]. ... I call it a walk-in-the-park walk -- very smooth, zero tension, maximum bat swing." In addition to skills tips, Alex Rodriguez also talked to the kids about their lives outside of baseball. "I think it's very important to work hard at your game, but also have balance in your life -- the No. 1 thing is education -- make sure your grades are always good, make sure you're focused on college and get a great education," he said. Shelby Parkes, 11, from the B&GC of Southeastern Michigan said the clinic was "so cool." She plays for her local church's baseball team in Detroit. "I learned a lot, like not to really try to force a home run," Parkes said. "Now that I think about it, that was kind of my problem. I was just trying force [the ball] to go far, and I'd end up striking out or getting myself out because I hit the ball right to the first baseman." She said having a chance to work with a big leaguer was a great experience, and she is looking forward to trying out what she's learned on the field. "[The clinic was] kind of exciting, something that you will never forget," she said. "If there is one thing that I can remember in my lifetime, it will be this." In Ivan Rodriguez's Pepsi Pitch, Hit & Run clinic, he said being around the kids reminded him of when he used to go to baseball clinics growing up in Puerto Rico. "I did the same thing when I was a little kid, seeing older superstars come and do clinics, I was one of those [kids] who sat down and listened to them," he said. A day after his exciting display at the Century 21 Home Run Derby, he received many questions about how to hit home runs. But instead, he focused on the building blocks of hitting, knowing that, for the kids, home runs are something that will come in their own time. "What I teach kids is just to concentrate and hit the ball hard, because hitting home runs is not an easy thing to do," said Pudge. "So basically that's the best thing that I teach to the kids -- just concentrate and hit the ball hard -- if they [can] hit the ball hard, the ball's going to go out." He said he hoped the children would pick up some new skills at the clinic, but most importantly, he just wanted them to enjoy playing baseball together. "It's nice to come here, I always love teaching kids," said Ivan Rodriguez. "As long as they are having fun, and they're smiling and they're happy, that's what I care about."
Christie Cowles is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.