Angels host MLB Players Trust youth clinic
ANAHEIM -- At a hot, sunny Hart Park, Pharrell Williams' "Happy" was playing over the speaker system, and children were hitting volleyballs with baseball bats.
The volleyballs were part of a swing drill at one of the stations set up by the Players Trust's City Clinics program, which hosted a baseball clinic in Anaheim on Friday morning for athletes ages 6-16 from the Angels' Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program and other organizations. The City Clinics program was developed by Major Leaguers to promote baseball to underserved children in cities around the U.S., with pro players participating in the events.
Angels Joe Smith, Carlos Perez, Hector Santiago, Cesar Ramos and Efren Navarro were on hand to help run the drills, along with a full staff of instructors. So did retired Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton, who had a 17-year Major League career.
"It's just fun, man, being with the kids and kind of goofing around," Smith said. "Brings back memories of when you played baseball, you know, not every day. And maybe they learn something, but it's mostly about having fun."
Smith threw batting practice with small, soft balls at the "Quickball" station, where each kid got one swing and had to run the bases in succession.
"I got shelled," Smith said. "Per usual."
Maybe because he wasn't pitching with his trademark sidearm delivery. Either way, Smith made sure to stare down each participant to take him deep.
As the participants rotated through the other stations, they got hitting instruction from Perez and Navarro and pitching tips from Santiago and Ramos.
After the instructional portion, while the staff set up a group picture, it was the five Angels' turn to get some free advice, dispensed by the talkative Lofton.
Then all six sat down and took questions from the participants. Navarro told the story of how he worked his way to the big leagues. Perez recalled his walk-off home run in his MLB debut. Smith talked about the importance of staying in school.
There was only one question that was off limits: "How much money do you make?" Of course, someone asked it anyway.
Lofton took the mic.
"I'm not making no money right now," he joked.