MLBPAA hosts youth clinic in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The stifling heat and humidity on a midsummer Tuesday morning at Kauffman Stadium could not be denied. But for 130 youngsters, ages 6 to 16, the memories of their time on the field may never melt away.

The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association Legends For Youth clinic was well worth the sweat beads, if the smiles on the kids' faces were any indication. The enthusiastic participants received autographs from eight former Major Leaguers, station-to-station instruction on all aspects of the game and life lessons from Kansas City-area residents and former Royals players Brian McRae and John Mayberry.

Six-year-old Andy Gray, who plays tee-ball in the RBI League of Kansas City got to attend the free clinic with his father, Kevin Gray.

"It's a great experience for him," Kevin Gray said. "He can learn some basics. It's a teaching tool for him. And just to be on this field ... he comes to the [Royals] games a lot, but it's something different to actually go down there and throw and catch the ball in that setting."

Besides first baseman Mayberry and center fielder McRae, the other former Major Leaguers who offered their expertise included outfielder Ken Berry, first baseman Pat Dodson, infielder Steve Jeltz and pitchers Tom Burgmeier, Clay Christiansen and Steve Kealey.

The instructors spread out over the Kauffman Stadium outfield, and the stations extended to the "Little K" beyond the left-field wall and to the batting cage within The Outfield Experience. Grouped by age, the youngsters rotated to the various hitting, throwing, fielding and baserunning stations in 15-minute intervals and had periodic water breaks to beat the heat.

Kenny McLish, who brought his 8-year-old son Kyle and two friends to the clinic, is involved with the RBI Program from Kansas City. He believes events, such as the Legends for Youth clinic, add to a growing passion for baseball among today's kids.

"The kids are starting to look at the longevity of baseball," McLish said. "You can enjoy the sport for a long period of time, not as much wear and tear on the body. And in baseball, you don't necessarily have to be the tallest or the strongest or the fastest. It gives kids of all sizes more opportunity."

The instructors for the Kansas City stop in the LFY series are part of an MLB Alumni Association group that has a mission of promoting baseball so that the youth of today can chase their dreams as the former Major Leaguers once did.

Berry, a two-time Gold Glove center fielder, was in charge of giving baserunning tips on Tuesday.

"We're working on running through the base and hitting the middle-front part," Berry said. "Working on turns, hitting the inside corner [of the base], shuffling out, reading the ball, taking leads. We try to get in as much as we can in the 15 minutes that each group is with us."

At the end of the two-hour clinic, the kids gathered on the bright green grass in center field. There were words of wisdom from McRae and Mayberry and a group picture before it was time to head home with some rich memories to savor.

For McRae, the clinic was all about giving back to the community.

"We had people that helped us get where we were," McRae told the group. "That's why we do what we do."