Play Ball at Youth Ballpark a hit for kids

Rangers host more than 300 children with focus on fun

Play Ball at Youth Ballpark a hit for kids

ARLINGTON -- The Rangers found their sweet spot for Sunday's Play Ball event at the Texas Rangers Youth Ballpark next to Globe Life Park.

With more than 300 kids on hand for the initiative, which focuses on widespread participation in both formal and informal baseball and softball activities, the Rangers had their inaugural Play Ball event on their home turf running like a well-oiled machine.

"This is what we're used to doing," said Lauren Parker, the Rangers' assistant director of community outreach and youth baseball programs. "This is a lot like the summer camps we run. It's great to have an event like this at our park."

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The focus was on fun, with some fundamentals thrown in, too. Under the watchful eyes of the Rangers' youth coaches and former Rangers players, the children whipped from station to station. With their parents in the stands, the kids fielded grounders at second base and short, hit off tees, worked on their pitching mechanics, chased down fly balls and took their hacks at plastic balls.

Once they ran through those fundamental drills, it was time for baserunning and plastic-ball games. And they had all that done before noon on a Sunday.

Former Rangers pitcher Mike Adams has been involved with camps for the team, but he's never seen anything like the Play Ball event. He was impressed and happy the focus was on having fun instead of just baseball.

"You just want them to have fun," Adams said. "They're going to leave here, and they're not going to remember the fundamentals. They are just going to remember how much fun they had. The biggest thing is having fun, let them have an experience that will make an impression on them, and hopefully it's something they won't forget."

Rangers stress fun at Play Ball event in Dallas

The Rangers had a strong Major League alumni presence Sunday. Bump Wills was hitting grounders to children stationed at shortstop, and Larry Hardy was serving as the first baseman during that drill.

Adams and former Rangers shortstop Benji Gil also worked their way around the field helping wherever they could.

When Gil was growing up in San Diego, he was a member of the Junior Padres. But that organization in San Diego was more focused on attending big league games. There wasn't the kind of action the kids had during Play Ball Weekend.

"There was nothing like this," Gil said. "You get to share your wisdom and what you've learned. You want to take advantage of the opportunity and learn some fundamentals, but the biggest thing is, this is a game. One of the things I like to stress is that there are some people who get to do what they love. They game wasn't evented for money. It was invented for entertainment and to have fun. If you can't have fun doing this, you don't need to be out here."

Anthony Andro is a contributor to MLB.com based in Arlington. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.