SAN FRANCISCO -- Giants manager Bruce Bochy interrupted his announced question-and-answer session with 35 youth league ballplayers Sunday morning to grant them an unexpected privilege: a round of batting practice on the diamond at AT&T Park.
"We're going to be scouting you because we're struggling to hit right now, so we may sign a couple of you," Bochy jokingly said. With that motivation, the kids began taking their hacks.
"That would be a nice surprise, I would think," Bochy said of the batting-practice session.
Giants legend Will Clark and former pitchers Jeremy Affeldt and Noah Lowry were on hand to throw BP and provide tips and encouragement.
"For us in baseball, it's so important that we get all of you kids involved in our sport," Bochy said. "I know a lot of you are going to [lean toward] basketball and football, but to see you guys here having a passion for baseball means a lot to us."
The aspiring ballplayers represented a cross section of organizations: the San Francisco Youth Baseball League, the Bay Sox from Baseball For All, S.F. Little League baseball and softball, and the S.F. Parish and School Baseball League.
"It's all about going out there and enjoying this," Bochy said. "It's a game. You've got to have fun with it. If you let the wins and losses define who you are, then it's not going to become fun and you're going to put too much pressure on yourself. So, enjoy."
Sunday's event was part of Major League Baseball's Play Ball initiative, which 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. The Play Ball initiative Play Ball 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.