"A huge part," Sabathia said. "I went to a club for about 10 years and I still have a lot of great mentors that I still talk to to this day from there. I'm always happy to do whatever I can to help them out."
Sabathia, the 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner, served as host and big brother on Thursday, signing autographs and posing for pictures with the kids and standing alongside them as they marveled at an illusionist who did card tricks and other feats of magic.
All of the kids got a PlayStation Vita as part of their giftbag, and Sabathia revealed a trade secret during the course of the night. The left-hander is one of seven candidates to be on the cover for the PlayStation 3 game "MLB 13: The Show," and fans will be voting for their favorite choice next month.
But this night was about the kids, and the Sabathias were pleased to be able to benefit the local community. Amber Sabathia, whose clothing line, C Candy, will be coming out next June, said they felt great being able to meet the kids and to give back and pay it forward at the same time.
"CC believes that he wouldn't be here today without the Boys & Girls Club," Amber said. "He had great mentors there and people to look up to, and CC would love to be that person."
The kids entertained themselves with video games and karaoke at the Fan Cave, and Sabathia met with the local media to discuss the Yankees and his health following a demanding season.
The southpaw had surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow in October, but he said he's on track to begin throwing after Christmas and to be ready for Spring Training.
Sabathia also said that he had been paying attention to this offseason's blockbuster moves -- including Thursday's move that brought Josh Hamilton to the Angels -- and that he looks forward to future developments. The Yanks, he said, still have time to make a couple moves.
"It's not over yet," Sabathia said. "You've always got to look out for the Yankees having something up their sleeves. But if not, we've got the guys. We made the moves the last two years before that. We've got the guys in the clubhouse to put together a good team."
Sabathia was asked about the loss of catcher Russell Martin to free agency. He said that the Yanks have players capable of shouldering the load in the organization. The bottom line, Sabathia said, is that New York needs minor tweaking to come back and be a contender in the AL East.
"We won 95 games and won the division last year, so we have a lot of the same guys coming back," Sabathia said. "We're going to miss Russ, but we had so many guys go down last year and have guys step up. [Rafael Soriano] had an unbelievable year last year with [Mariano Rivera] going down. Andy [Pettitte] went down. I went down a couple of times. We have the guys in the organization to step up and the guys in the clubhouse to first win the division and then try to win a championship."
But this day was about the kids, and Sabathia eventually went back to playing the Pied Piper. Kids swarmed him most of the day, following him around the Fan Cave's basement, and Sabathia seemed to relish the opportunity to relive his childhood through the eyes of those around him.
"They look forward to being here. It's not even about the gift to them. They just enjoy coming out and spending time," said Elizabeth Ortiz of the Boys & Girls Club. "They all know who CC is. They're fans of the Yankees. CC also gives backpacks for the school year and everything like that."