Pirela, Sanchez help Padres host Play Ball event

Porter Elementary School in San Diego got to experience learning from Major Leaguers

Pirela, Sanchez help Padres host Play Ball event

SAN DIEGO -- To the Porter Elementary School neighbors, its students are sorry about Friday's ruckus.

But when real, live baseball players appear on your campus, that's a reason to hoot and holler.

"I've never met a Padre,'' said Jade Rodriguez, an excited 10-year-old.

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Major League Baseball and USA Baseball were making an introduction as well of its "Play Ball" initiative. The program is an effort to spur participation in all forms of baseball and softball activities among everyone, but especially our youth.

So that had Padres catcher Hector Sanchez and infielder Jose Pirela at Porter as the morning sun poked through the marine layer. They sent about 80 fourth and fifth graders through catching, hitting and throwing drills at the San Diego school.

They did so while distributing a life lesson or two.

"If you want to be a good player you have to be smart,'' Sanchez told the students. "And if you want to be smart, you have to do well in school. Really no matter what you do in life, you have to do well in school.''

What the Porter bunch had down was a loud chant of "Here we go, Padres, Here we go!" and boisterous break from each drill with a "Padres!" cheer.

"Look at those smiles,'' Pirela said. "When I was little in Venezuela, a professional player never came to our school. It's great we can give that opportunity to them.''

The Padres did more than put grins on faces. Each student received a Padres jersey and tickets to Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

"For some of these kids the only player they have seen has been on TV,'' said Thomas Miller, a San Diego police officer volunteering through the STAR/PAL program, which connects law enforcement and sports in the community. "So to have a player here talking to them is special.''

"And to go to Petco Park? Not many of them have ever been there.''

Vicente Mora, 10, has attended games and he looked the part. He was dapper in a cap, Padres shirt and baseball pants, with a grass stain that came from a dive in his Southeastern Little League.

"I've been playing since I was 3,'' he said proudly. "And the Padres have always been my favorite team.''

The Padres collected some new converts on Friday. And through "Play Ball," the word is being spread about the joys of baseball or softball.

Jade Rodriguez won't forget when "Play Ball" rolled through her campus.

"I've never had a jersey and I'm going to keep it and some day take it to college,'' the fifth grader said. "It will make me flash back to this good time.''

Jay Paris is a contributor for MLB.com based in San Diego. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.