The city of Charleston, S.C., threw one of the first pitches in the Play Ball initiative on Thursday. Charleston, one of more than 100 cities involved in Major League Baseball's push to celebrate youth participation in the national pastime, opened the doors of a local park to a troupe of local campers on Thursday.
Thirty-eight kids were welcomed Thursday to Joseph P. Riley Park, the home of the Charleston RiverDogs, a Class A affiliate of the Yankees. The kids, ages 6-12, were given a full tour of the facility that included a behind-the-scenes look at the press box and at some of the private suites.
The stadium, named for longtime Charleston mayor Joseph Riley, was opened in 2007 and also serves as the home for the college team from The Citadel. The children got a chance to speak to RiverDogs manager Luis Dorante, who served as bullpen coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates for three years.
After that, the kids had a chance to hit in the batting cages and to play catch on the field, and they even got to work off some energy by running around in center field. And when the two-hour event was over, a few of the kids were pulled aside to be interviewed by local TV news stations.
The kids even got to take pictures with Charlie T. RiverDog, the team's mascot, before the day came to a close. And another group of Charleston youth is scheduled to do it again on Tuesday. Mayor Riley, who has served 10 terms between 1975 and the present day, issued a press release about Play Ball.
"Some of the fondest memories I have of growing up and of raising my own sons are watching the wonderful sport of baseball," said Riley. "Baseball brings together many different people of all backgrounds and ages and unites us as a community. I am happy that Charleston is participating in the Play Ball initiative to introduce our youth to this marvelous game."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.