Stanton, Gordon 'Play Ball' with kids in Bronx

Marlins stars help launch MLB initiative focused on engaging youth players

Stanton, Gordon 'Play Ball' with kids in Bronx

NEW YORK -- For almost an hour on Thursday afternoon, Giancarlo Stanton and Dee Gordon as well as Hall of Famer Andre Dawson had a chance to act like kids around a large group of young players.

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The Marlins contingent joined in MLB's "Play Ball" initiative that was launched at Macombs Dam Park in the Bronx, the site of the old Yankee Stadium, which is directly across the street from the new one. Stanton, Gordon and Dawson offered instruction, posed for pictures and signed autographs.

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"This initiative is to just remind people that you can engage with baseball without having nine guys on each team, uniforms and umpires," MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said. "There are lots of small games that are ways to play baseball that can be really fun for kids, and they can help you develop great skills."

Having famous players on an unassuming grass field was a big hit, with people gathering on the field or lining up behind the fences, engaging with the players.

Representing the Yankees were Alex Rodriguez, Dellin Betances and Chris Young.

Gordon, one of the fastest players in the game, timed a group of players running around the bases on one field.

In other areas, Stanton and Dawson played Wiffle Ball and joked around with the players.

Harold Reynolds, a former player who works at the MLB Network, helped organize the players who were from Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and Little League clubs.

The Marlins on Thursday were facing the Yankees in the Bronx, wrapping up their four-game set, which started on Monday at Marlins Park in Miami.

"Our players have been absolutely unbelievable with respect to this initiative," Manfred said. "You've got a Hall of Famer in Andre Dawson. Giancarlo Stanton, Alex Rodriguez, Dellin Betances, Dee Gordon, Chris Young, all show up. It was really easy to get the players together. I think it's because the initiative is important to all of us in the game."

Stanton was all smiles, taking selfies and signing autographs.

"It's great out here," Stanton said. "We're having a good time with the kids out here. That's what it's all about."

In a visiting neighborhood, Stanton felt at home as people were screaming his name.

"Really cool," he said. "To be in another city that is not your home, it's awesome that the kids recognize you and acknowledge you. It's great to give back to them."

Stanton reminds that many players who make it to the big leagues started playing at an early age.

"They get to see that we can relate with them a little bit -- that's great," Stanton said.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.