MLBPAA hosts clinic for kids in Brooklyn

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Six former Major Leaguers took the field despite the 90-degree heat at Coney Island on Saturday to teach young baseball players about the game.

The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association hosted a Legends for Youth clinic on the field at MCU Park, home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, a Class A affiliate of the Mets. Two of the instructors were native New Yorkers: former Mets pitcher Nelson Figueroa, born and raised in Brooklyn, and former Pirates pitcher Fred Cambria, who grew up in Queens.

They were joined by former Giants pitcher Bob Tufts, Phillies pitcher Dickie Noles, Rockies outfielder Angel Echevarria and Dodgers first baseman Oreste Marrero, donning their old jerseys to coach Saturday's clinic.

"I'm so excited about being back in the New York area. I'm trying to do more and more clinics like this," said Figueroa, who now works as a Mets television studio analyst for SportsNet New York (SNY). "I couldn't resist the opportunity to give back and show some of the kids from the neighborhood that dreams do come true and it takes a lot of hard work."

The six players set up stations around the field -- hitting, baserunning, fielding, pitching -- demonstrating fundamentals and taking questions from groups of clinic participants of various ages and skill levels.

Echevarria, for example, showed one group how to shift weight during a swing and drive straight through the baseball. Figueroa taught another different pitch grips.

"You learn so much," said Cambria, who also works with schools on Long Island. "First, the opportunity to meet a ballplayer, which is very good. Secondly, being on the field -- sometimes you never get an opportunity to be on the field."

When the on-field clinic was over, the MLB alumni posed for pictures and signed autographs. Noles, who pitched for the World Series champion Phillies in 1980, addressed the group about having fun playing the game and not giving up.

When Figueroa was growing up in New York, he said, clinics like Saturday's were rare. Occasionally, a well-known player might show up to one of the city's youth baseball leagues. But those opportunities were difficult to seek out.

"They didn't have them to this extent," Figueroa said. "The way this has opened up to all different kids from all over the city, it's a great opportunity to take part in something like this."