NEWTOWN, Conn. -- While growing up in Danbury, Conn., Red Sox right-hander Matt Barnes said his parents preached to him the value of giving back to his community.
That is why, after tragedy struck here in 2012, when a gunman fatally shot 20 children at the Sandy Hook elementary school, Barnes wanted to find a way to help the community. So he began the Matt Barnes and Friends Baseball Clinic for the Children and Community of Newtown, which held its third annual event Saturday at Newtown Youth Academy Sports and Fitness Center, as a way to give back to a community still mourning a horrific act.
"For me, this was a way that I could give back to the community and provide people with a day or an afternoon, at least, where it was 'Minds off of everything, let's just go out and have some fun,'" Barnes said. "Get the kids out here running around, kind of take everybody's mind off what had happened."
Lately such massacres have become rapid recurrences, from the shootings in San Bernardino, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Charleston, S.C.; Roseburg, Ore., and far too many more.
"Being this close, it shook the entire community," Barnes said. "Everybody felt it around here particularly hard, so I definitely feel for the people who are going through it in California, everybody else who has felt it this year."
On Saturday afternoon, two groups of about 100 kids split into five stations focused on pitching, hitting, infield, outfield and a strength and conditioning station. Helping out among the group were a pair of current players -- A's right-hander Evan Scribner and Mets third baseman Eric Campbell -- as well as athletes on local college baseball teams from Hartford, Philadelphia University, East Connecticut State and West Connecticut State. Scribner was born in nearby New Milford, Conn., while Campbell was born in Norwich, Conn.
"I think the big league players that have made it, they want to come back into the community," said Duke Dickerson, one of the event's organizers. "They want to come back and show the kids that are throwing snowballs instead of baseballs in January that with a lot of work both in the classroom and in the field of play that they, too, with that dedication and that focus, can maybe end up like Matt has done -- 60 feet, six inches away at Fenway Park."
Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.