OAKLAND -- Oakland A's infielder Adam Rosales and former A's left-hander Vida Blue combined to host a sandlot game with kids from Oakland's Cal Ripken Baseball youth league at Greenman Field in Oakland on Saturday afternoon."It's awesome. I feel like we've built a relationship with these guys, like they're my
OAKLAND -- Oakland A's infielder Adam Rosales and former A's left-hander Vida Blue combined to host a sandlot game with kids from Oakland's Cal Ripken Baseball youth league at Greenman Field in Oakland on Saturday afternoon.
"It's awesome. I feel like we've built a relationship with these guys, like they're my teammates," Rosales said. "I was impressed with how they just had fun. They love the game, and that's what baseball is all about."
Rosales' charity, Sandlot Nation, was a sponsor of the one-hour event, which was part of Play Ball Weekend. More than 30 kids played less than a half-mile from the Coliseum. It's close enough that the kids can hear the public-address announcements during the A's games.
The second annual Play Ball Weekend features a variety of youth engagement activities by nearly 200 Major League and Minor League clubs to highlight the fun of youth baseball and softball. It is a complementary program of the Play Ball initiative, designed by MLB to celebrate youth baseball and softball participation. MLB has provided clubs with more than 300,000 youth plastic bat and ball sets to distribute in both ballparks and at community events.
For league president Louie Butler, who has been involved with the youth league for 49 years, the chance for the kids to hear about what to value was most important.
"I think it's great, especially when you have a player that's playing now, and when you have a legend out here together," Butler said. "These two can actually give these youngsters something to shoot for. They can talk about education and teamwork, which helps them to prepare for life."
Rosales founded Sandlot Nation last year, and has already hosted about a dozen events, including ones in Dallas and Houston earlier this year. He also will be hosting an event in his hometown of Chicago on June 24 on his old sandlot field.
"I've always wanted to give back to the game of baseball, and the sandlot games when we were kids were really important to me," Rosales said. "I know how important it is to these young players to help mentor these young kids, and help them appreciate the purity of baseball."
About 460 kids play in Oakland's Cal Ripken league, which boasts alums of its program such as Hall of Famers Rickey Henderson and Joe Morgan, Phillies great James Rollins, and current Major Leaguers Joe Ross and Tyson Ross.
"We could take players just from Oakland, and come up with a pretty good starting nine," Butler said.
Blue added: "We may have potential Major Leaguers here."
Rosales agreed, adding: "Baseball's a big family. I think they saw the appreciation I have for baseball, and being a part of the Oakland A's family."
Many MLB clubs are hosting skills and physical fitness clinics as well as surprise "takeovers" of youth baseball and softball games or practices featuring appearances by Major League players, alumni, mascots, public address announcers and more. Activities will include kids participating in special news conferences, pregame meet-and-greets and catches with players, ceremonial first pitches, public address duties, lineup card exchanges, taking the field with players, postgame running the bases and more. Major League players, coaches and managers will wear Play Ball Weekend patches during the weekend's games, and players on home clubs will wear custom T-shirts during batting practice on the date of their club's activations.
Teams that are on the road Saturday and Sunday will host their Play Ball Weekend activities during another homestand.
Alex Simon is a reporter for MLB.com.