Play Ball welcomes 100 kids to Compton event

Play Ball welcomes 100 kids to Compton event

COMPTON, Calif. -- Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy was buzzing with activity Saturday, with roughly 100 local youth participating in a free baseball clinic as part of MLB's Play Ball initiative.

Boy and girls, ages 7-12, learned fundamentals -- hitting, fielding and throwing -- in a fun and relaxed setting. Play Ball had youngsters play Wiffle ball, hit off the batting tee, play catch and run the bases.

"What we're really trying to establish with the Play Ball initiative is to engage kids and present baseball in a way that is fun," said Tony Reagins, Major League Baseball's senior vice president of youth programs. "We don't want kids to think that the game is slow. When they come and put a bat and ball in their hands, you want them to have fun just swinging a bat or playing catch or running the bases.

"We just want the experience to be positive with energy and for them to have fun. When you put a bat and ball in a kid's hand, the inherent physical response is a smile. And if we can create that over and over, that's what we're talking about."

Play Ball hosted the clinic in celebration of Jackie Robinson Day, which was recognized throughout the Majors on Friday. After the kids were done with the physical portion of the afternoon, they were treated to a special screening of the movie "42."

Saturday's clinic featured instruction for Urban Youth Academy coaches and athletes, including former Dodgers outfielder Ken Landreaux, who spoke to kids and their parents about the importance of playing multiple sports.

"As an athlete, becoming good at multiple sports is the challenge of being an athlete," Landreaux said. "That's the challenge of making yourself better."

Jennifer Hernandez, Urban Youth Academy's certified athletic trainer, addressed the group on issues of health and injury prevention. She advocated for kids to play multiple sports to avoid overuse of the same muscles.

"It keeps you athletic, it keeps you strong, it keeps you healthy," Hernandez said of playing more than one sport. "It actually makes you a better athlete, because now you're conditioning and using all the muscles of the body, versus just doing the same motion over and over all year."

The Angels donated 600 tickets to upcoming games, with each child going home with four tickets.

MLB launched the Play Ball campaign last season. It encourages participation in all kinds of baseball and softball activities, with special attention on youth. Parents can visit playball.org to find information about youth events and leagues, plus guidelines on a range of topics, such as how to pitch safely. There are also suggestions for fun games to try with a small group of friends, no baseball diamond needed.

"It's just getting kids out there and playing ball in its simplest form, letting them know that you don't need 18 players, an umpire or a field to engage in the game," Reagins said.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.