Shannon Ford

Play Ball joins in for Worldwide Day of Play

Event at Prospect Park encourages youth participation in baseball, softball

Play Ball joins in for Worldwide Day of Play

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Wiffle balls flew over the fences at MLB's Play Ball event as part of Nickelodeon's Worldwide Day of Play in Prospect Park on Saturday morning, leaving only smiles and the sound of elated cheers in their dust.

"We think it's important to connect with the community, and being here at Prospect Park and partnering with Nickelodeon's Worldwide Day of Play event is hugely successful," said Tony Reagins, MLB's senior vice president of youth programs. "We expect about 3,000 kids coming through our Play Ball Park feature here today."

The event is part of a series of Play Ball activations hosted by MLB across the country, an initiative to encourage young people and communities to participate in baseball- or softball-related activities.

"It's important for us to make sure kids get out and play baseball and connect with our game," Reagins said. "[There are] a number of different elements that factor into why we do this. One is connection with the game. Two is exercise and making sure kids get out and interact with each other."

Those same lessons were instilled early in the careers of many of the Play Ball coaches, which include members of the MLB staff, USA Baseball and USA Softball.

"It's a continuation of our partnership with USA Baseball and USA Softball," Reagins said. "They've been great partners all year long -- for the last three years, really -- and we're continuing to integrate them in a lot of the things we do throughout the year." 

Play Ball coaches included members of MLB staff, USA Baseball and USA Softball.Shannon Ford

Among the coaches at Saturday's event were USA Softball's Destinee Martinez, an NCAA national champion and former member of Team USA, and Carlos Pena, former Major League first baseman and current studio analyst for MLB Network.

Pena, who stopped by to toss out some pitches, was blown away by the experience and opportunity Play Ball provides kids today.

"This is why it's so important for us, MLB's Play Ball program, to do that, to bring the game of baseball to the inner cities, to provide the kids with some sort of a vehicle that they can actually come out in a safe environment and play baseball, get to know the game and get to try hitting," Pena said.

A native of the Dominican Republic, Pena started playing the game at a young age and fell in love quickly. Today, he is hoping to pass along that love to the next generation.

"Once they feel what it's like to make good contact with the ball, trust me," he said. "They'll fall in love."

Shannon Ford is a reporter for Follow her on Twitter @Shannon__Ford. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.