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Lindor 1st MLB player to host Play Ball event

Indians shortstop starts program to benefit kids in his hometown @wwchastain

ST. MONTVERDE, Fla. -- Francisco Lindor arrived with a smile on Saturday afternoon.

Big surprise, right?

ST. MONTVERDE, Fla. -- Francisco Lindor arrived with a smile on Saturday afternoon.

Big surprise, right?

To those who know the dynamic Indians shortstop, they would expect nothing less. Simply stated, Lindor cares. Thus, the Francisco Lindor Play Ball Event.

• Complete Youth Baseball coverage

Last year, Lindor began talking to the people from Major League Baseball who stage Play Ball events and expressed an interest in hosting an event at Montverde Academy, where he attended high school after arriving to the United states from Puerto Rico. On Saturday, that came to fruition under clear skies on the Francisco M. Lindor Field.

"This is a thrill," Lindor said. "I was fortunate to have a lot of people in my corner that helped me growing up. So I wanted to give back and help kids get some of the same help I got along the way."

Lindor is the first Major Leaguer to host a Play Ball event, which made Saturday even more special according to Jess Dunn, the coordinator of youth programs for MLB. She conducts approximately 30 such events per year.

Tweet from @PlayBall: Well ... this is adorable. #PlayBall

"To have such a young superstar reach out is huge for us," Dunn said. "Hopefully it will be a spring board for other Major Leaguers to follow suit. He's great with kids and he's been active with RBI. The idea is to connect with the kids and help them to fall in love with the game."

Lindor's agent, David Meter, said that his client has a big heart.

"He wanted to do something for the kids," Meter said. "He's a special kid. He's all about giving back."

Approximately 150 kids ages 7-13 showed up at the sprawling Montverde Academy complex accompanied by their parents. They wore different colored uniforms and dragged equipment bags. Their faces showed the excitement of being afforded the opportunity to mingle with Major League and Minor League players.

Marlins second baseman Derek Dietrich, who is friends with Lindor, was among the group of players participating in the activities.

"Francisco is a great person, a great friend, and a great player," said Dietrich, who noted that they often work out together at the Montverde Academy facilities. "We feed off each other. I find myself learning from him. I love being around somebody who can make you better."

Video: Lindor hosts Play Ball event at his old high school

Minor Leaguers on hand included Josh Lowe (Rays), Austin Allen (Padres), Ozzie Albies (Braves), and Mickey White (Oakland).

"It's fun to help out and see the little kids smile," Lowe said. "Hopefully, you give them something they can take away from it to help them get better."

Added Allen: "Growing up, I never had the opportunity to be around [professional baseball players at an event like Saturday's]. I know how much it would have meant to me."

In addition to the professionals, players from Montverde Academy's baseball and softball teams helped with the activities. The kids split into groups and went about their paces in 15-minute drills at five different stations.

Tweet from @PlayBall: Show the future how it's done, @Lindor12BC! #PlayBall

What transpired was the personification of everything special that is possible when athletes reach out to help in their communities.

Lindor looked out toward center field, where the scoreboard was decorated with blown up pictures of him, then he looked over toward the kids.

"This is a dream come true to be able to bring baseball to the kids here," Lindor said. "When I was going here, I never thought it would come to this. A special day, for sure."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for

Cleveland Indians, Francisco Lindor