Royals alumni teach baseball to kids at Play Ball KC

Royals alumni teach baseball to kids at Play Ball KC

KANSAS CITY -- Former Royals All-Star outfielder Willie Wilson joined seven other former Kansas City players on Sunday to teach throwing and fielding skills as part of an MLB and U.S. Conference of Mayors' initiative called Play Ball KC. The event focused on strengthening youth, families, communities and baseball.

"Catch it," shouted Wilson to a group of 10 kids. "Look at it. Walk it. Throw it."

Darryle Jumper Jr. stood by as Wilson worked with his son, Darryle III, and several of his RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner City) program teammates. Darryle Jr. is confident 8-year-old Darryle III has never heard of Wilson or his accomplishments, but the presence of the former Royals reinforced one of his perceptions of the players.

"These former athletes give back to the community. That is awesome," Jumper Jr. said. "I wanted my son to see this."

Wilson has participated in youth clinics for several years and said catching the ball is the single hardest thing to teach. Kids have to learn to not be afraid of the ball.

"It's a tough game, man," said Wilson.

Over on an adjacent field, former Royals first baseman John Mayberry was working with another group of kids.

"That ain't the way to do it," Mayberry hollered. "Stride out." He then repeated that instruction another dozen or so times to varying degrees of success.

Former Royals outfielder Brian McRae offered his own take on throwing to a group of 10 gathered around him.

"Load up," McRae instructed. "Make sure you load up."

McRae also said it's tough for kids to learn the game because they just can't show up at a neighborhood park, play until dark and then go home.

Kansas City Mayor Sly James also brought his glove and offered instructions to the kids.

"Remember who you're throwing it to," said James. "He's not John Mayberry."

James met MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred at the 2015 U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting. James quickly embraced the concept of Play Ball, and worked with the Royals and the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum to organize the event.

"The Royals have been great partners in this," James said. "Plus, whenever we do anything in baseball, we want to involve the museum."

Play Ball is a nationwide initiative. Parents, coaches and kids can visit PlayBall.org for more details. The website includes information about baseball skills, news and events, local leagues and health and safety information.

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