Life, ball skills in syllabus at Nats' Youth Academy

Former MLB stars teach fundamentals and love of game at Southeast clinic

October 9th, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Kids don't know what they don't know. In the context of baseball, former Major League standout Al Bumbry views his mission as helping to fill in the gaps.

The 1973 American League Rookie of the Year was among the former Major League Baseball players serving as instructors at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy in the Southeast section of Washington, D.C. on Saturday morning. More than 75 kids worked on different aspects of the game.

Ken Dixon, Stephen Lombardozzi, Brian Bass, Jim Hannan and Rick Krivda were among the other former players helping to teach fundamentals and love for the game at the spacious and impressive facility that opened its doors in 2014.

"Field of Dreams said, 'If you build it, they will come,' said Dixon with a nod toward the iconic baseball movie and part of the facility's mission of growing the game in the inner city. "So it's just a matter of getting the message out to the community, getting some more local advocates involved. ... It can definitely be a model for the program."

Hannan played for the Washington Senators from 1962-70 before splitting his final season between Detroit and Milwaukee in '71.

"I played in this town for nine years, and then they didn't have a team for 30 years," said the former pitcher, who remained in the area after his playing career. "To see this facility built by [Nationals ownership] and Major League Baseball is great because it's sorely needed."

As Hannan sees it, that need extends beyond the field.

"The main thing we have is a life session at one of our stations where we tell them to respect authority, go to school, be good kids, stay away from drugs, be occupied with good things. That's the primary mission," Hannan said. "The other part of it is have fun and play ball. ... You're also developing the fans, too."

Dixon, who runs a baseball youth group in Northern Virginia, and the other MLB alumni frequently attend clinics throughout the greater metro area. The Nationals Academy hosts events throughout the year.

"Working with the kids is nothing new. Being at a facility like this, oh my god, we would love to have something like this. For a youth facility, this is one of the best I've seen," he said.

When the kids were with Bumbry, a former Baltimore Orioles centerfielder, the focus was on catching fly balls. Known for his speed and defensive prowess during his 14-year playing career, the 69-year-old was both feisty and playful when explaining glove placement and the art of running toward a hit ball to the next generation of ball players.

"It's fun because I will ask them, 'How many of you don't know how to catch a ball?' Nobody raises their hand," said Bumbry, a member of Baltimore's 1983 World Series champions. "Then I toss a ball, and 90 percent of them miss it. So I know there is a need for what I give them, and I enjoy doing that."