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Play Ball: Carrasco hosts military families

@juanctoribio
January 10, 2020

TAMPA -- As Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco took part in the Play Ball event during the World Series at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, he immediately knew that he wanted to bring the same level of joy to the kids in the Tampa Bay area, where he resides during the offseason.

TAMPA -- As Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco took part in the Play Ball event during the World Series at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, he immediately knew that he wanted to bring the same level of joy to the kids in the Tampa Bay area, where he resides during the offseason.

Shortly after the October event in Fort Belvoir, Carrasco reached out to Major League Baseball to express his desire to set up the event. On Friday, Carrasco and the Play Ball initiative hosted approximately 400 kids from the Tinker K-8 school inside MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.

“He really enjoyed [the event] and reached out and told me that he would like to host one [in Tampa],” said MLB’s vice president of baseball & softball development David James. “He’s already done a lot of work with this elementary school and at the base, so we were more than happy to come out here with him.”

“At Tinker, we’re all about growing up and remembering Tinker as their very best school experience,” added Tinker principal Rachel Walters. “We’re all about making memorable moments, and this will probably be their top memorable moment of the year for us.”

The Play Ball events are focused on having groups of kids playing outside and spending time with friends, while practicing baseball in the process.

Through the Play Ball initiative, both Major League and Minor League Baseball have hosted hundreds of events throughout the United States, United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Panama.

At Friday’s event, the kids were gifted with a Play Ball T-shirt and were split up into five different skill stations: home run derby, bat & ball, agility, grounders and popups, and baserunning. The kids rotated through the stations and were able to hit off and receive lessons from Carrasco, as well as former Rays player and current MLB Network personality Carlos Peña, who was also in attendance.

“I told [Carrasco] that this is more important than you could possibly imagine,” Peña said. “The impact that you have on these kids, and for me as well, just to understand that it is a privilege to come out here and that you are making a difference in the kids’ life, it’s definitely an honor and I don’t take it for granted.”

During the Play Ball event, Carrasco realized just how big of an impact it can have on kids who deal with the unique challenges of being in a military family. As the brave men and women continue to serve, families are prone to moving to different bases. The Play Ball event gives those kids an opportunity to get together with their friends from school and play baseball.

“All those kids over there, they were so happy,” Carrasco said. “No matter what; if it was rainy, sunny, cloudy. Just seeing those kids smile, that brings everything. Just trying to do something different to take them away from everything. I’m pretty sure they’re having a good time right now.”

As Carrasco and his wife, Karelis, rotated through the stations in order to play with as many kids as possible, he noted that he plans to continue being active with the Play Ball initiative. The Indians’ right-hander said he has already gotten in touch with Major League Baseball to look into the possibilities of hosting a similar event in the Cleveland area during the summer.

“These kids are the future right here,” Carrasco said. “Who knows if one of these kids is going to make the Major Leagues, so they’ll remember this special day. But I learned something really nice just by doing this event for these military families. They save our country, they do a lot for our country, so why not give back to their families, to their kids?”

Juan Toribio covers the Rays for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @juanctoribio.