The players gave more cheers and high fives than hard instruction on Friday, as the students demonstrated their baseball skills and home run trots in front of a happy crowd of parents, teachers and supporters.
"You see the genuine love and care that the players have for our kids, and the kids are so excited," said Carol Santiago-DeJesus, who was there to watch her 13-year-old son, Raphael, or "Rockin' Ralphie" as she likes to call him. "I'm from the Bronx, and Ralphie is probably the hugest Yankees fan you're going to find. To have this opportunity to share this special day with them is just so amazing."
It was the first City Clinic of the 2015 baseball season, and the assembled players sensed how important the day was for the group.
"You really get to see the smiles you help put on their faces, so it's awesome," Murphy said.
In addition to the clinic, the kids got T-shirts, lunch and time for photos and autographs from the players, who invariably remember what it was like to be a kid in a similar situation.
"City Clinics and the Players Trust are vital to what we're trying to accomplish in our communities," Rodriguez said. "It gives us a chance to expose our youth to the greatest game in the world, which is baseball.
"To me, personally, I was fortunate that I had the Boys & Girls Club. That's where I learned to play baseball. If it wasn't for programs like the Boys & Girls Club and Harlem RBI and the Players Trust, I wouldn't be where I am today."
It was the third time the Players Trust has brought its City Clinics program to Harlem RBI for an event with the NYC Autism Charter School, which has a baseball enrichment program for its students that culminates with the clinic on a "Baseball Day" each spring when their parents come out to see how much progress they've made on the diamond.
"The Players Trust and the players have taken this event to a whole new level," said Julie Fisher, the school's executive director. "These kids don't have the opportunities to play on teams. Parents aren't used to coming out and rooting for their children at sporting events or hearing their kids applauded.
"The fact that we can do this for them and give back to the students and the families is exceptional. Having Major League Baseball players here and supporting us this way is special."
The Players Trust is a charitable foundation created by the players to help those in need. Through the Players Trust, active Major Leaguers contribute their time, money and celebrity to call attention to important issues affecting those in need and to help encourage others to get involved in their own communities. For additional information about the Players Trust, please visit www.PlayersTrust.org.
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