Twins make recess special for local students

Tonkin, Polanco surprise elementary-age kids as part of Play Ball initiative

Twins make recess special for local students

MINNEAPOLIS -- When students from Whittier International Elementary walked out of their school for recess on Friday, they had no idea what awaited him.

Players from the Minnesota Twins surprised the elementary school kids for Major League Baseball's league-wide Play Ball initiative. It's the first of several events the Twins will take part in this weekend, and Friday's fun game brought the big leaguers back to their childhood.

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"It's just like back when I was a kid, running around any time you had a chance to get your friends out there, and hit some balls and run around and throw," said Minnesota reliever Michael Tonkin, who was joined by infielder Jorge Polanco at the school Friday. "It's always a good time. It just brings back the simpler times of baseball."

Kids ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade took turns in the batter's box as Tonkin and Polanco pitched. The students at Whittier International get about 15 minutes of recess each day, and it's safe to say the time they spent Friday was a bit more memorable than usual.

As the students waited for their turn to hit, they cheered each other on -- chanting their peers' names as they stepped in to hit against big leaguers. As the students rounded first base, they were greeted with a high five from either Polanco or Tonkin.

Twins reliever Michael Tonkin high-fives a young student from Whittier International Elementary. (Tyler Mason/Special to MLB.com)Tyler Mason

When time ran out on one group's recess, another wave of students rushed toward the field, where the two Twins players waited. Plenty of students also happened to be wearing Twins jerseys to school, too.

"There's a couple kids that can swing it, I'll tell you that," Tonkin said. "One kid took my shin out. It's a good time."

MLB's Play Ball initiative began last year as an effort to get kids interested in the sport. The Twins will host more Play Ball events throughout the Twin Cities metro area on Saturday and Sunday. Other teams throughout MLB will put on similar events, all with the goal of introducing young kids to the game of baseball and encouraging them to play.

"It's really aimed at bringing the game to kids, getting them to get a bat in their hand and play a little ball," said Twins senior director of community relations Bryan Donaldson.

Tyler Mason is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.