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08/19/10 9:38 PM EST
Dodgers give pointers to kids at City Clinics
By Ben Platt / MLB.com
COMPTON, Calif. -- It may be the dog days of summer and players are feeling the wear and tear of a long season, but they still come out and support kids when asked. More than 150 boys and girls at the MLB Urban Youth Academy were in for a treat as current and former players came out to give them baseball pointers at the City Clinics put on by the Players Trust on Thursday. "This is a great program, the players really want to give back," said Players Trust director Melissa Persaud. "They especially want to teach kids, especially in disadvantaged and inner-city areas, that baseball is a option, that it's a great sport to play and that they can learn some great life lessons like perseverance and teamwork from baseball." The two-year-old program has been hosted by numerous current and former players, with six groups teaching hitting, infield, baserunning, outfield, pitching and bunting in their area of expertise. On this day, current Dodgers James Loney, Jamey Carroll, Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen joined baseball alumni members Tim Leary, John "Blue Moon" Odom, Chris Donnells and Jay Johnstone in working with the kids. "Anytime you can get other players involved and our kids get to listen to either former or present players, it motivates them," said Urban Youth Academy director Ike Hampton. "The kids get excited whether they are 7 or 8 years old or high school or college age, especially when the current players, guys who are just up the freeway, come by. It just makes it a very exciting event." "I think, more than anything, just being able to play this game and get out and share some knowledge and be a part of some of these guys learning the game is the most important thing," said Carroll, who has done an admirable job this season filling in for injured Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal and worked with the kids on their baserunning. "Somebody took the time to help teach us the game, and there's no better way to give back and have an opportunity to do this." "This is just a lot of fun," said Loney, who worked with Donnells on fielding drills with the kids. "I've been out here a few times and I definitely enjoy helping the the kids out in any way I can. I did one of these clinics this past offseason in the Houston area, where I live, and some of the Houston players showed up, and we really worked with the young players at that clinic." One of the most popular sessions was the pitching clinics where the veteran Odom was joined by Kershaw and rookie pitcher Jansen in working one-on-one with many of the young pitchers. "You know, it's great when you can work with these kids," said Kershaw, who has emerged as one of the most promising young left-handed pitchers in baseball. "I think, when we were this age, it would have been cool to have a former or current guy come and work with you. Since we're all part of the Players Association, anything we can do to help out is a good thing." "Man, I wish I could have gotten all this stuff when I was a kid," said Odom, who won three World Series championships as a pitcher with the Oakland A's between 1972-74. "It's nice for me to come out here and work with these kids and hope they were able to learn something from me. It was also nice to have these young Major Leaguers come out to work with the kids, and they like to pick our brains as well." After the clinic, Dodgers players took part in a Q&A session with the young players, answering any question they may have. "This has been great," said Hampton. "I think now that we have a partnership with the MLB Alumni, you'll be seeing a lot more of these events at the academy."
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.