Super Camp a thrill for kids, former players

Blue Jays Baseball Academy hosts 275 youth at Rogers Centre in one of 15 such events throughout season

Super Camp a thrill for kids, former players

TORONTO -- They remember what it was like when they were aspiring baseball players.

The Blue Jays Baseball Academy and several former Major Leaguers offered 275 children the opportunity to live the dream this week, taking the field at Rogers Centre for a three-day Honda Super Camp from Tuesday to Thursday, one of 15 such events across the country throughout the season.

All of the participants worked with former big leaguers -- featuring Toronto alumni Jesse Barfield, Denis Boucher, Candy Maldonado, Darrin Fletcher, Juan Guzman, Lloyd Moseby, Rance Mulliniks, Duane Ward, Devon White and Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, his father Sandy Alomar Sr., and nine-year big leaguer Mario Diaz -- going through stations focused on every facet of the game.

Honda Super Camps information

"This is a great time," former Blue Jays second baseman Alomar said. "We realize that we were kids once, too, and we just want to see them enjoy the game that we enjoyed so much when we were growing up. I'm here for that, for them to get opportunities like this one and learn the game."

Fletcher's return to Rogers Centre marked his first Super Camp appearance in a few years, an occasion he thoroughly enjoyed. The 14-year veteran catcher spent his three days working with all of the young players on their skills behind the dish.

"I've been involved in youth sports really ever since I retired back in 2002, with my children and then coaching their teams," Fletcher said. "So this is something that I've been doing for a dozen years since I retired, and I enjoy working with the kids.

"There are so many smaller details that you take for granted as an older baseball player. When you show something as small as just learning how to break in a glove properly, [it] goes a long way for some of these kids."

Jabari Smith learns more every time he steps out onto the field with the Blue Jays Baseball Academy. The 12-year-old Scarborough Stingers middle infielder has been to multiple events and keeps coming back for more.

"I've been to four of the Super Camps and clinics," Smith said. "Everything is the best part. My favourite station is when I get to go in the [batting] cages, and I like working with Lloyd Moseby the best because he's funny. ... I've learned a lot of advanced things. Before I didn't know that when you're making contact with the ball, your foot doesn't actually have to be on the ground."

Jabari's mom, Janice Smith, added: "He gets a lot out of it. The skills that he gets, and from all of the great players who give him the little tips here and there, and just motivation. They tell him little things, and then he works on his game and takes it back to his team and his teammates and he applies the knowledge. He gets a lot out of it, and he has fun, too."

The young Smith is a lifelong fan of the Blue Jays, watching from home and at the ballpark whenever he can. Someday he hopes to take the same field he's now played on several times as a part of his hometown team, and his experience with the Academy only makes him want it more.

"I come to games and watch them on TV, but it feels really good to be on the field," he said. "I feel like a big leaguer. Being on the field is the coolest part, and it's really nice to go in the clubhouse. They get spoiled.

"I want to be a big leaguer and play for Toronto. This is my favourite team. I'd play shortstop or second base. Troy Tulowitzki is my favourite player. Last week, Josh Donaldson was my favourite player. He's still one of my favourites because he has a lot of energy."

The young infielder's mother loves to see her son having fun while he continues to hone his skills, and she believes his passion only grows every time he gets a chance to work with the Blue Jays instructors.

"Seeing the clubhouse, No. 1, and then meeting all the players like [Roberto] Alomar, Devon and Lloyd Moseby, of course," Janice Smith said. "The passion and the love that they have for the game is reflected in how they teach the kids and how they interact with the kids, so he just gets more inspired every time. Every time he comes, he learns something and he gets something out of it ... this is just priceless."

With plenty of interested participants, the Super Camp at Rogers Centre was the biggest one the Blue Jays have hosted yet, and with baseball on the rise north of the border, the event -- in its fifth year -- might still just be the beginning. 

"The kids get a kick out of being on the field, and who wouldn't want to be on a big league field?" Fletcher said. "They like the fact that they get to go in the clubhouse and they interact with some former players and Blue Jays staff, and they get to learn some instruction, too. It speaks for itself that there are this many kids out. The interest in baseball around Canada has been very good."

Alexis Brudnicki is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.