WAUKESHA, Wis. -- Afternoon recess at Heyer Elementary School in Waukesha got a major upgrade Friday.Brewers players Jacob Barnes, Wily Peralta and Eric Sogard and Manager of Youth Outreach Larry Hisle visited the school and held mini-clinics with students as a part of Major League Baseball's second annual "Play Ball
WAUKESHA, Wis. -- Afternoon recess at Heyer Elementary School in Waukesha got a major upgrade Friday.
Brewers players Jacob Barnes, Wily Peralta and Eric Sogard and Manager of Youth Outreach Larry Hisle visited the school and held mini-clinics with students as a part of Major League Baseball's second annual "Play Ball Weekend."
The Brewers organization also donated several thousand plastic bat-and-ball sets to every kindergarten through third-grade student of the Waukesha School District.
"It's great for our community and great for our kids. We want to make sure that our kids help stay active and get out and play. Baseball is a great opportunity to play and get exercise and enjoy our beautiful Wisconsin summer," principal Mark Schneider said.
Along with receiving brand new bat-and-ball sets, students at Heyer Elementary were given "Play Ball" T-shirts, ice cream treats and discounted game tickets, and got to take pictures with Bernie Brewer and the Klement's racing sausages.
The kids broke off into groups to take batting practice from Hisle and the Brewers players, who all started playing baseball at a young age.
"I think for myself growing up, I loved watching the game. I loved playing the game," Sogard said. "I just grew up playing outside, playing any sport I could play. I played a lot of Whiffle ball growing up and I think that's what helped me get to where I am today and I enjoy having fun with it."
"Play Ball Weekend," focuses on encouraging young children to participate in baseball -- something that is especially important to Sogard, Peralta and Barnes, who all have young children of their own.
"I started playing when I was 7 and just kept it on. Now, I have my son who's 5 and I started throwing with him, especially in the backyard. He's starting earlier than I did and I'm just trying as much as I can, anytime I can to have a catch with him in the backyard, just us two. Trying to get what I learned to him," Peralta said through translator Carlos Brizuela.
About 230 of the 425 students at Heyer Elementary speak Spanish, according to Trisha Sacharski, a speech pathologist at the school. She said it was significant for the Spanish-speaking students to get a chance to practice and play with Peralta, who is a native of the Dominican Republic.
"It shows kids and this population that any one of them can achieve this, so I think that at this time of year to have them come out and have them be able to talk about the hard work and dedication is important," Sacharski said.
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.
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.
*Carson Mason * is an associate reporter for MLB.com based in Milwaukee."