Progressive Field hosts 'Hardball Classic' for local youths

CLEVELAND -- Six area high school teams received the opportunity to play at Progressive Field on Friday as part of the Hardball Classic.

Made possible through funding by the Cleveland Indians Charities (CIC), the 12th annual installment of the event featured three games: Rocky River vs. Eastlake North, Chagrin Falls vs. Bay and North Royalton vs. Saint Ignatius.

Chagrin Falls coach Mike Sweeney -- in his 15th year with the school -- admitted that he had been thinking about the opportunity to manage a game from the Progessive Field dugout all day at school. But the bigger thing, he said, was the experience for the kids.

"Just getting on the field and saying that they played at Progressive Field -- some of them have said that's the one thing they'd love to do," Sweeney said. "They'll remember it forever."

CIC has donated nearly $10 million to youth-oriented agencies and organizations in Northeast Ohio since its foundation in 1989. Cleveland Metropolitan School District high school baseball and softball programs have been made possible through CIC's donations.

In addition to financial support for youth baseball in the area, the Indians also give back through a series of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) camps -- led by former big leaguer Matt Kata.

Kata, a graduate of Saint Ignatius High School who was born in Fairview Park, played professional baseball for parts of 11 seasons -- including Major League stints with Arizona, Philadelphia, Texas, Pittsburgh and Houston. He became the manager of youth baseball development for the Indians last year, and aims to use the camps not only to teach kids the right way to play the game, but as a way to instill positive character traits within them, to be used both on and off the field.

"Throughout the day, our main focus from Day 1 that we drive home with the kids is our ACE mindset toward camp," Kata said. "[ACE] is the three things you can control on the field, and off the field as well: your attitude, your concentration and your effort."

An athlete, as Kata explains, can't always control the results of what happens on the field, just like in life. What they can control is the work and preparation needed to put themselves in the best position to succeed -- an important lesson that can be applied to all walks of life, and one that is stressed in the camp.

"Ultimately, it's more than just on the field," Kata said. "I always say, 'Hey, is our goal to be creating and developing these Major League baseball players?' My answer is: 'I don't know.' They are getting Major League-quality instruction. Of course, the odds of that happening are very slim, but I don't know if you're going to be a Major League player -- that's up to you. But we can create Major League people. And that's the biggest thing."

There are eight five-day camps held throughout the summer in seven locations in the Cleveland area, including one held at Progressive Field. Participation is offered for children ages 6-14. More information can be found at the Indians' youth baseball page.

August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.