A couple of years ago, Brooksville Parks and Recreation director Mike Walker read a piece on youth clinics in the MLB alumni newsletter.
Since then, Walker, a former reliever for the Cleveland Indians, and the city has hosted three MLB Players Alumni Legends for Youth baseball clinics including the one Feb. 7.
These free clinics attract kids who bring out the heart of America's pastime for those on hand to see. The game in its purest form is on exhibition. Former big leaguers stand in front of wide-eyed children showing the fundamentals of hitting, throwing, base running and more.
"We are excited to be a part of this every year," Walker said. "It's a wonderful event, and we continue to get great turnouts."
With the numbers steadily rising each of the three years the clinic has been held, word-of-mouth has definitely spread about the valuable experience working with these players provides. Among the 125 youths on hand this year was Matt Rhineberger.
"My mother thought that this would be a great way for me to help my baseball skills and improve," Matt, 13, said. "This is the first time I've attended, but I am going to try to attend as many times as it comes back."
Coordinating with the MLB Players Alumni Association, Walker was able to attract some former big leaguers. Former Kansas City Royals pitcher Jim Archer and American League All-Star Richie Scheinblum both hit it off with the kids at last year's clinic and returned in 2009.
Former Blue Jays reliever John Frascatore and former Baltimore Orioles reliever Anthony Telford joined the players this season. Also helping out was former California Angels outfielder Rick Reichardt, who has 116 career home runs. Eddie Looper, the owner of Looper Sports in Brooksville and a 1986 draft pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, was also on hand to assist.
Matt, who acknowledges that commitments to local baseball programs like Spring Hill Dixie make it difficult for his brother, Hunter, and friends to all attend, came away with a great deal of knowledge. Playing baseball for eight years, he was very appreciative, especially the advice given by Frascatore, the new baseball coach at Nature Coast Technical High.
"I've gotten a lot of different advice about pitching (mechanics) from all of the coaches I've had in the past," Matt said. "(Frascatore) made it simple and showed me how to pitch."
At 13, Matt marks the older side of kids who made the trip out to Tom Varn Park. There were children as young as 7 with a glove, as well as teens. No one was without benefit of the knowledge that these players turned coaches were dishing out.
The MLPPAA Web site says the Legends for Youth baseball clinic series provides a fun, positive baseball experience, that it provides children with positive role models, and teaches young ballplayers the game's fundamentals in a multistation format.
In asking the youths who attended this time around, they've reached that goal.
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