Former players give Major League instruction to kids at Tucson clinic

January 22nd, 2018

TUCSON, Arizona -- A familiar sound echoed throughout one of the practice fields at Kino Sports Complex.
With each thud of a baseball hitting the grass, the voice continued.
"You're out!"
Several baseball hopefuls donned numbers to match their idols. One wore No. 44 for Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt. Another wore No. 1, matching Houston's Carlos Correa. A third wore No. 34 for Bryce Harper. The voice bellowed from a No. 32 Sedona red jersey, as former Diamondbacks pitcher Albie Lopez led the series of pitching drills at the MLBPAA's Legends for Youth baseball clinic in Tucson on Saturday morning.
Lopez joined former three-time Gold Glove winner and two-time All-Star Eric Davis as one of several former Major Leaguers hosting the free clinic for a projected 200 local youth, teaching life skills in addition to how to throw a four-seam fastball as the kids cycled through pitching, hitting, infield and outfield drills.
Those joining Lopez and Davis included former Major Leaguers Shelley Duncan, Willie Adams, George Arias, Damon Buford, Dave Burba, Gil Heredia, Charlie Montoyo, Nikco Riesgo and Mike Sember.
It's an opportunity that Lopez, a local product who was part of the Diamondbacks' 2001 World Series team, didn't have at the same age.
"I was kind of in the same boat as these kids where the coaching and opportunities were very limited," Lopez said. "To be able to have these former Major Leaguers come out and talk to these kids, we can help them dream and give them a routine where they can come out daily and execute it.
"To be able to receive instruction from these Major League guys is huge, maybe helping them get help or giving a tip that an ordinary coach might not have."
When Davis, who grew up in Los Angeles, was this age, his dreams weren't on the baseball diamond - they were on the basketball court. Now Davis -- the first player in Major League history to smash 30 homers and steal at least 50 bases in the same season (1987) and a World Series champion -- got the chance to teach kids the game he wound up falling for.
"It's fun, because you get the chance to help the kids and identify with them and help them towards their dream," Davis said. "Here, the dreams aren't as emphasized as once you sign a professional contract, but here is just the fun part of teaching them and watching them learn.
"From an informational standpoint, to be able to see all the players and the Major Leaguers that have played, it would've been huge (for me). My mouth would've been wide open, just like these guys' are."
The lessons - and autographs - are mementos parents and coaches hope can stay with the young players far beyond Saturday's clinic.
"Baseball has taught me in my life to be a good human being, to be a good teammate," Lopez said. "I'm always trying to be helpful, especially in baseball, because baseball has allowed me to be surrounded by good people my entire life."