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Blue Jays host clinics for girls after long day

TORONTO -- After a grueling 18-inning marathon victory at Rogers Centre on Saturday, former Blue Jays pitcher Duane Ward and company still had some work to do.

After the Blue Jays toppled the Rangers, 4-3, in the franchise's longest game, Ward was out on the field for two clinics in support of amateur baseball in Canada.

"To be a part of this … this is what baseball is all about," Ward said. "Not just the ones that can play it the way that you see on TV, but everybody that's able to pick up a bat, pick up a glove, pick up a ball, we want to be a part of it. That's the Blue Jay organization, plain and simple."

The two clinics held were for girls' baseball and the National Challenger Baseball Jamboree, consisting of four teams of players with disabilities.

One of those teams flew in all the way from Whalley, British Columbia, to take part in the festivities.

"Kids in wheelchairs, kids that were mentally challenged, physically challenged, and they just had a great time," said Baseball Canada president Ray Carter. "It was worth every bit just to see the smiles on their face."

The Challenger program is in its inaugural year with Baseball Canada, which now consists of 36 teams across the country.

It's a program that the Blue Jays and Baseball Canada have fully embraced despite its infancy.

"I call it a great success, just had to look out there today," Carter said.

The pair of clinics at Rogers Centre on Saturday is a part of an ongoing partnership between amateur baseball in Canada and the Blue Jays that include 17 baseball camps in 10 provinces throughout the year and four Challenger camps.

"You can't go wrong helping, teaching, our most precious resources, and that's the kids," Ward said.

Ward, 49, was a part of both World Series-winning teams in the early '90s, and he has been intrinsically connected with the Blue Jays since retiring in 1995.

"I have to give back. If I don't give back, then what the heck was my career all about," Ward said. "I came out here and had 50,000 fans in Toronto cheering for me whether I did good or bad. For me not to give back to this beautiful city, this wonderful country, that would be a tragedy."

A part of giving back for Ward comes from these types of clinics, as well as alumni appearances, among others.

On Saturday, that involved stepping onto the "pitcher's mound" in a simulated game for the Challenger program and helping tutor young girls in the art of baseball.

Along with Ward were members of the Canadian National Women's team to help shape the minds of 130 girls across Canada.

Although the clinics went well late of their expected time thanks to the 5 1/2-hour-long game that preceded it, there was nothing but positive vibes from everybody.

"Today's been great." Carter said. "These kind of events these kids will never forget … just like I don't forget some of the events when I was their age."

Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for
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