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Gregorius, Peralta visit Urban Youth Academy

D-backs players impressed with facilities after spending time with the kids

COMPTON, Calif.-- It was just another Saturday at the softball field at the Compton Urban Youth academy. The girls team was at the end of a match, Urban Youth academy director, Don Buford, walked on to the field and asked for a quick timeout.

"I have a couple of Major Leaguers who came by to say hello," said Buford, who earned three World Championship rings as a member of the Baltimore Orioles.

The girls put down their gloves and bats and walked over to the first-base side of the field, where David Peralta and Didi Gregorius of Arizona Diamondbacks greeted them.

The visit is part of an effort by Major League Baseball and its players to visit the various academies that MLB has built since 2006 and give the players a chance to see what is going on in the community and meet with some of the boys and girls who take part.

"The reaction of the kids is like getting ice cream on a cake," said Buford. "The kids know the players -- they know them better than I do. So when they come, you see eyes light up and big smiles on their faces. So it's really a pleasure when they come and I think the players get a kick out of it too."

"I really like it here today, " said Peralta, 26, a native of Venezuela, who has played left and right field for the D-backs. "It reminds me of when I was little and my dad would take me to camp to play baseball and it's really nice here."

"It's always good for me to give back to the community, " said Gregorius, 24, a native of the Netherlands who resides in Curacao and is one of the top young players to come out of the Caribbean island. He plays shortstop and second base. "Walk around, talk with the kids -- interact and let them know a little bit about what professional baseball life is."

The girls paused for a moment and one member yelled out, "Are you going to let the Dodgers beat you again tonight?" and the two ballplayers, in unison, gave an emphatic "NO!" as their answer.

After answering a few more questions, the players posed for a group picture and a few more individual photos.

Next, it was off to the main field. Gregorius took the keys to a golf cart, "I'm driving -- show me where to go," said the shortstop. Peralta and a couple of other people jumped in and Gregorius sped off.

At the main field the two addressed 150 young players aged 6 to 17. Peralta and Gregorius answered questions ranging from how they prepare for a game to how much money a player makes when they are drafted.

"The kids were really happy to see us," said Peralta. "That was really happy for me to spend time with them, have a good time, talking with them. They asked some pretty funny questions."

"It was really exciting," said 12-year-old Jaden Cannon, who has been playing baseball since he was 4. "Me being a kid, meeting a pro player and all, really inspires you to keep pushing."

When asked what his dream for the future was, Cannon had to apologize to Gregorius who was standing next to him.

"My dream for the future is to be a Major League Baseball player and, sorry, Didi, I want to play for the Dodgers."

"I wasn't offended," said Gregorius. "It's his choice, not my choice. I'm not going to force him to be a D-backs player. But you never know. I signed with the Reds, played five years in the Minor Leagues with them, made it to the big leagues in 2012 and the next year, I was traded to the Diamondbacks."

In the end, the two players said they enjoyed their morning in Compton and were very impressed with everything about the academy.

"It's amazing how many kids are here and how many coaches they have," said Gregorius. "It's just amazing how good this Urban Youth Academy is."

Ben Platt is a national correspondent for

Arizona Diamondbacks, Didi Gregorius, David Peralta