We’ve waited, waited and waited some more…
But finally, after five long months, it’s once again baseball season!
In keeping with its tradition, the St. Kevin’s parish, Flushing, Youth Guild hosted its eighth annual baseball clinic with the pros March 25 in the school gymnasium at St. Kevin Catholic Academy.
Over 75 kids from nursery school through eighth grade learned the fundamentals of hitting, fielding and pitching from former New York Yankees Jesse Barfield and Ron Blomberg. The Yankees legends also answered questions and signed autographs for the youngsters.
“The children of our parish really look forward to this event every year,” said Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, pastor and an avid baseball fan. “They’re excited about it because they know there are going to be some former baseball players and they know they are going to get some instruction out of the day.”
The clinic’s coordinator and vice president of the Youth Guild John Bonanno has lots of connections within the Yankees organization and delights in seeing the former ballplayers interact with the kids of the parish.
“Every year I like to bring someone new to the school so the kids can get different philosophies and different kinds of tips,” Bonanno said.
Barfield, who played for the Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, was a 1986 All-Star and a two-time Gold Glove Award winner who was widely considered to have the best outfield throwing arm of the 1980s decade.
“It’s always a pleasure to come up to the New York area,” he said. “It’s near and dear to my heart. These kids are a lot of fun to be around. The parents are enthusiastic as well.”
Blomberg will always be remembered as the first-ever designated hitter in MLB history in 1973. He played parts of seven seasons for the Yankees and compiled a .293 career batting average.
“You can see that these kids really enjoy this,” he said. “They don’t even know who we are. … But we’re role models. To be able to give back to the community is wonderful.”
Both players preached the importance of fundamentals to the kids at this stage of their baseball careers. They also said that the No. 1 priority is always school work.
The kids realized just how lucky they were to be able to learn the game from a few former pros.
“I like coming here every year,” said Thomas Braunreuther, an eighth-grade third baseman for the St. Kevin’s CYO team. “They teach me a lot of stuff about hitting, pitching and fielding.”
Maybe the next Jesse Barfield or Ron Blomberg was in the gym that day. But even if not, a group of young baseball players now have a memory they will never forget.
Once again, the St. Kevin’s Youth Guild knocked a home run out of the park to ring in the 2017 baseball season, as two former greats taught the game to kids who hope to someday fill their shoes.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.