Established in 1992, the Jays Care Foundation has built itself on the social and physical development of youth in Canada to engage lives that inspire leadership on the diamond and in the community, with Rookie League its signature baseball development program.
Now in its 28th season, Rookie League works in partnership with like-minded organizations, providing opportunity through baseball to children by teaching them the importance of teamwork, cooperation and self-esteem in communities throughout Canada.
Tuesday's event gave participants an opportunity to play on the same field as the big leaguers. They learned hitting, fielding and throwing through drills from Blue Jays alumni and the Canadian national women's baseball team.
"For a lot of our residents, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Sherwin Modeste, manager of grants development and sponsorships at Toronto Community Housing, a partner organization of the Jays Care Foundation.
"It's one thing for the kids to be at the Rogers Centre watching a game. But to actually be on the field where their heroes are playing, that's a great opportunity. And for the players to invest in our young people, that's an honor."
The list of Major League alumni included Lloyd Moseby, Devon White, Sandy Alomar Sr., Duane Ward, Tanyon Sturtze and Mario Diaz. The group worked with participants across various stations, with drills that included hitting off a tee, shagging fly balls and working on throwing techniques. Participants and coaches then took part in a series of mini baseball games.
"This is what we love to do," said Moseby, who spent 10 seasons patrolling the outfield for the Blue Jays. "I know there's a lot said about the Major League players and all the money that they make, but this is what we really do. We enjoy working with the kids, so for us to be able to come out here is outstanding."
Started in 2015 in an effort to engage young baseball fans and celebrate youth participation, Play Ball is a joint initiative between the 30 Major League teams. With each club finding a unique way to engage their members, the Blue Jays wanted to provide the full Major League experience to their participants, parents and coaches for recurrently making Rookie League a growing success.
With an all-time high of more than 8,000 youth participants in Rookie League programs throughout 2015, Jays Care Foundation executive director Robert Witchel pointed to the dedication and commitment that the Blue Jays and Major League Baseball have put toward continued development.
The belief is that an initiative such as Play Ball will not only augment current success, but take it to new heights.
"Events like this are really symbolic of what the club wants to do across the country," Witchel said. "We want to build the game, give kids opportunity and reduce the opportunity gap for kids who are facing big challenges in their lives.
"An initiative like this is not only a celebration of what we do all-year-round, but also, hopefully, a moment that they remember forever."