Royals work to bring joy and happiness in wake of 2014 tragedy
By Scott Chasen
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- On Tuesday, when the Royals were in New York, preparing to take on the Mets in a short two-game series, members of the Royals' front office gathered at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kan., in conjunction with the C You in the Major Leagues Foundation.
They led the C You in the Major Leagues Baseball Camp, which in its second year, and gave 118 kids the chance to learn from the staff, both about baseball and subjects off the diamond. The camp spans four days, and will conclude Wednesday with the kids getting the chance to take the field at Kauffman Stadium.
"We want young boys and young girls to grow up loving this game," said Royals general manager Dayton Moore. "Hopefully they're learning the importance of being a great teammate, encouraging one another [and] understanding that baseball is a game of a relentless focus on the fundamentals."
As far as baseball activities were concerned, the kids rotated through a series of stations, culminating in an opportunity for them to play some t-ball games on the three fields at the complex.
While the kids waited their turn to play, they had the opportunity to practice their swings with some of the best. Chris Getz, former Royals second baseman and current assistant in player development, worked with kids in a batting cage, shouting words of encouragement. That made an impression on both the campers and some of their parents.
"[Those are] opportunities that, a lot of times, don't come to people in cities," said Antoine Dunn, assistant coach with Kansas City Kansas RBI, who had 20 kids at the event, and a parent of one of the campers. "[My son] is having a great time. He was so excited yesterday [and] couldn't really sleep [wanting] to get back over here today."
The camp brought joy to many in attendance, which was its original purpose, created following a tragedy that took place in Overland Park.
In April 2014, a gunman shot and killed two people at the Jewish Community Center, and one more at the retirement community. Moore heard the news while on the road, but said it instantly shook him.
"Our family belongs here, and our son is up here quite a bit, and our son's friends [are too]," Moore said. "It's such a tight-knit community, you just figured this probably affected somebody that we know."
Moore said he had previously wanted to partner with the JCC, and the opportunity arrived. The camp began one year later, as a way to not only help children develop baseball skills, but to allow them to experience a positive environment, and come together as a community.
"[It's about] not letting evil affect the greater good of what we're trying to accomplish as a society," Moore said. "Turning something tragic into something positive."
Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Kansas City. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.