Play Ball puts kids on field to meet Orioles

Play Ball puts kids on field to meet Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Orioles manager Buck Showalter still has vivid memories of his childhood days playing baseball. In fact, some are even visible beneath his right eye, where a faded scar sits.

Before Sunday's series finale with the Tigers, Showalter recalled a story from when he was just 8 years old living in Florida. He joined a pickup game at a local sandlot with some 12-year-olds and went to retrieve a foul ball underneath a neighbor's porch. Two German shepherd puppies were waiting for him.

"I started petting the puppies, grabbed the ball and ran out," he said chuckling, "and momma showed up."

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Showalter's other memories -- he had plenty -- he described as "special," something that could characterize the experiences of the 10,000 pre-registered youth baseball and softball players circling the warning track at Camden Yards prior to Sunday's game, part of MLB's Play Ball Weekend.

For an hour, the splotches of different-colored uniforms from players, coaches and parents filtered through the right-field gate and down toward the first-base line, where they were greeted with handshakes and high-fives from Orioles players. One of them included Adam Jones, who interacted with some young players while wearing an oversized O's cap.

That might have been the biggest thrill for the group from Lake Shore Softball from Pasadena, Md., being supervised by Jessica Madisack, whose daughter participated in the 8-U league.

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"It's really nice," she said. "It's exciting for the girls to come here and see where the professionals play and see a big field and get out and do that. It's fun for them."

O's righty Dylan Bundy also pounded some fists with the youngsters before he joined nine other teammates near first pitch to swap autographed caps with 10 players from the Roland Park Panthers International League, a coach-pitch league for youth players ages 8-9.

"They get to walk around the warning track, so they're pretty lucky," Bundy said. "I'm sure they'll enjoy it. It will be fun for them to see the big league players in the dugout and walk on the field."

Many of the kids were also going to get the chance to head back onto the field, where they were slated to partake in a traditional run around the bases after the game.

"It's a blast, it's what it's all about for the kids," said Barry Gregory, the assistant coach of his son Kade's 9-10 league from Elkridge, Md. "It's just fantastic, you can't beat it."

Jake Kring-Schreifels is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Orioles on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.