Braves' Play Ball weekend a hit with kids

June 3rd, 2018

ATLANTA -- Over the past three days as the Braves hosted the Nationals, the club's players and coaches spent some time encouraging kids from all ages to participate in the Play Ball weekend at SunTrust Park and the Battery Atlanta.

Play Ball is an initiative designed to increase participation in both baseball and softball for boys and girls across the country. Both parents and kids were able to participate in various activities throughout the weekend.

Some events of the weekend included a kids-only press conference with pitchers and Mike Foltynewicz on Saturday, a parade on the field before the game Sunday for invited All-Star teams and a 30-minute skills clinic with coaches Ron Washington and Eric Young on Sunday morning.

"It's exciting to get to explain [the fundamentals] to them because we all were one of those little kids at one point in our lives, and it's so special when you have somebody come to help you and explain their game," Young said. "I just think it is very fortunate for kids to have a big league coach or a big league player coming down and doing these things."

During the clinic on Sunday, the Braves' coaches and players went through fielding drills while also giving advice to kids and parents. Washington's main message was about encouraging kids to get valuable experience at different positions while they are still young.

"Play as many positions as you possibly can," the Braves' third-base coach said to the growing crowd out on the Plaza Green in the Battery Atlanta outside SunTrust Park.

To help explain his point, Washington brought with him someone who is a prime example of the benefits of playing multiple positions.

Growing up, Braves utility man Charlie Culberson was no stranger to any position on the field.

"When I was a little kid, my dad was my coach and there were times when we would play different positions every inning during a game, all of us, we would just rotate," Culberson recalled. "I think that was the best thing for me."

Now, a father's coaching tactic is paying off, as Culberson has found himself used in various ways for the Braves this season.

Since the start of 2018, the 29-year-old has been utilized at shortstop, third base and, recently, left field, while also being used as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner.

"I learned how to field my position but I was able to figure out the game of baseball from different angles," Culberson said. "To be more versatile is huge because you can help your team out, but you can also help yourself out."

Including the Braves' Play Ball events this weekend, half of the clubs throughout MLB will be holding Play Ball events throughout June. Beginning in 2015, the Play Ball initiative was created to provide clubs throughout MLB with a platform to engage kids' interest in baseball and softball throughout the community.

And for Young, events like the Play Ball weekend are made worthwhile if the kids can take just one thing with them from the instructions they are given by the coaches and players.

"It's the smile that's so important, to see these kids light up," Young said. "Even if we can just touch one kid, that's so much of an appreciation for us."