ANAHEIM -- While Angels superstar Michael Trout was busy preparing for a game on the other side of the country, his center-field perch at Angel Stadium was occupied by kids emulating his highlight-reel catches.With the Angels in Baltimore to play the Orioles on Saturday, the playing field at Angel Stadium
ANAHEIM -- While Angels superstar Michael Trout was busy preparing for a game on the other side of the country, his center-field perch at Angel Stadium was occupied by kids emulating his highlight-reel catches.
With the Angels in Baltimore to play the Orioles on Saturday, the playing field at Angel Stadium was filled with young boys and girls taking part in the Legends For Youth Baseball Clinic, which is put on by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Alumni Association.
Former big leaguers Tarrik Brock, Shawn Chacon, Mike Gallo, Jeff Liefer, Calvin Pickering and Anthony Slama coached the two-hour clinic, which focused on fundamental baseball skills -- both physical and mental.
It was a fulfilling experience for the 75 youth in attendance, as well as the retired players.
"The most important thing is, I get to take the game that I love and pass it along in its purest form and just see their excitement [about] being in a big league stadium -- on the field and being in the outfield making catches just like Mike Trout does," said Brock, who coaches in the Dodgers organization. "That was the cool thing, just to see that excitement. As a parent, you just want to see your kids grow, learn, have fun and just enjoy themselves."
The kids were split into six groups and rotated around the field to different stations, where they were instructed on pitching, throwing, infield defense, outfield defense, hitting and baserunning.
The energy in the stadium was palpable. It was easy to tell the kids were thrilled to run around on a Major League field.
"I think these kids realize how lucky they are to come to a big league field," said Gallo, who pitched for the Astros from 2003-06. "I didn't even sniff a big league field and get on the field until I was in the big leagues. Just to get out here and get the experience is amazing. It's great for the game of baseball. It keeps the interest sparked up. There's so many competitive things to do out there. But baseball is a really good skill sport -- and it helps not only teach you life skills, it teaches you physical skills, as well."
The clinic, which is part of MLB's Play Ball initiative, was unlike anything the coaching staff experienced when they were growing up. After two hours of baseball, the kids got to hang out in the Angels' dugout and get autographs from their instructors.
A group of boys beamed when Angels pitcher Nick Tropeano emerged to take the field to continue his throwing program as he rehabs his right shoulder injury. "That's Nick Tropeano," the boys screamed.
After the clinic was over and the autograph session was complete, the kids received plastic red bats and plastic baseballs to take home. Some wasted no time putting their new toys to use. Suddenly, a baseball game was in full swing on a patch of grass outside the left-field pavilion.
"The one thing that you want to try and instill in these kids is, the game of baseball is fun," Gallo said.
Austin Laymance is a contributor to MLB.com based in Los Angeles.