CLEVELAND -- Matt Kata, the Indians' manager of youth baseball development and initiatives, stood alongside shortstop Francisco Lindor in the outfield grass in front of approximately 40 members of the Cleveland Baseball Federation during the Tribe's off-day on Thursday.The youth ballplayers had just completed their agility drills and stood waiting
CLEVELAND -- Matt Kata, the Indians' manager of youth baseball development and initiatives, stood alongside shortstop Francisco Lindor in the outfield grass in front of approximately 40 members of the Cleveland Baseball Federation during the Tribe's off-day on Thursday.
The youth ballplayers had just completed their agility drills and stood waiting for further instructions. Rather than give them an order, Kata posed a question to the crowd, "Does anyone know who plays shortstop for the Cleveland Indians?"
After a few brief moments, nearly half the kids barked out "Francisco Lindor." At that moment, Lindor took a step forward, waved to the crowd as he said, "That's me." There was a collective cheer from the crowd, for they knew they were going to spend the evening playing baseball with a Major Leaguer.
"Seeing the love they have for the game and just being outside and being with their friends," Lindor said. "That reminds me of when I was younger. It's one of the reasons I play the game."
Thursday's gathering at historic League Park in Cleveland's Hough neighborhood was the second of several planned youth clinics for Lindor this season.
However, it was his first in Cleveland. The first was in Philadelphia in late April.
"In Philly, I didn't get a chance to be outside. I was a little bummed out about it," Lindor said. "But it was great weather today. It was just awesome. I am blessed to be out here."
Rather than spend his off-day taking a break from the 162-game grind, Lindor chose to give back to the community.
Lindor bounced between the four stations throughout the evening that were utilized to teach fundamentals. The participants worked on the basics, such as fielding, throwing and hitting.
Even the big league shortstop participated in the drills. One of which nearly stumped Lindor, the home run derby. In attempt to hit it over the towering fence in the outfield, Lindor swung and missed on the second pitch.
"Changeup," Lindor said. "Changeup can mess anybody up."
But Lindor had the last laugh, as he launched the third and final pitch over the fence.
Afterward, Lindor stuck around to take pictures and sign autographs. He then entertained questions.
During the Q&A session, Lindor touched on a variety of subjects. He talked about what it was like to be the little guy growing up. And how he began playing the game when he was 4.
He mentioned what it felt like to finally make it to the big leagues in June last year and how he struck out and tripped over first base in his first two at-bats because he was so nervous.
After answering several questions, Lindor led tours to the adjacent Baseball Heritage Museum, which was highlighted by the game's greatest players, many of whom played on the very same field.
"Being on this field, it reminds me the reason that I play the game," Lindor said. "People back then breaking the barriers, that's why I'm playing the game. I'm blessed and I thank them."
Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.