Former Brewers take part in youth clinic

MILWAUKEE -- As one Little Leaguer clouted a litany of balls off the tee and into the batting cage netting during the MLB Players Alumni Association's free Legends for Youth clinic at Craig Counsell Park in Whitefish Bay on Saturday morning, one former Brewers first baseman gave the young slugger high praise by comparing him to another former first baseman for the Crew.

"You know who you look like?" Cecil Cooper asked the tall Little Leaguer with the sweet stroke. "You're a young Richie Sexson. Everybody said he was a home run hitter, but, I'll tell you, he was a line-drive hitter first."

It was one of the hundreds of compliments handed out during the two-hour clinic by Cooper, the five-time All Star with Milwaukee and collector of 2,192 career hits. At one of over 100 sessions across the globe in the MLBPAA's clinic series, Cooper and a cast of former Major Leaguers taught the fundamentals of the game, instituted life lessons and signed autographs for over 300 Little League players in attendance.

"I'm just thankful that we can give back something to the communities, particularly ones that we were around all the time," Cooper, 66, said. "I played [in Milwaukee], a lot of these guys played here."

More former Brewers joined Cooper as instructors, including four-time All-Star Don Money, two-time All-Star Larry Hisle, Don August and Bill Mueller, as well as past big leaguers Bill "Soup" Campbell, Wes Chamberlain, Bill Gogolewski and Jim Mecir. Each player ran a station focused on either hitting, baserunning, fielding or pitching.

"The goal is to give kids an experience to meet some former Major Leaguers, but also to teach them a couple pointers at each station about technique and how the game should be played," MLBPAA director of corporate sponsorships Paul Salvatore said.

The MLBPAA was founded in 1982 -- the same year as Cooper's dramatic game-winning single for the Brewers in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series -- and has since grown to more than 7,600 members with an objective of promoting baseball, raising money for charity and protecting the dignity of the game through its Alumni players. The Legends for Youth clinics take place all over, from Hawaii to Germany to Wisconsin, and see over 15,000 young players come through each year.

Each participant received a free shirt, meal and autographed ball, courtesy of the clinic's sponsor, the Hanover Insurance Group.

For Cooper, who flew in from Houston for the clinic, and the rest of the former Brewers, there was something a little more special about instructing Little Leaguers not only in Milwaukee, but at a park named after the Crew's current manager.

"It is very special," Cooper said. "I spent 10 or 11 of my Major League years here that I played. It's a fun city, my kids grew up around here, so it's fun to come back and I'm glad I can participate in this. This is a great facility here, the Craig Counsell Field, so I'm glad I could come back."