NEW YORK -- Patrick Deegan was the toughest kid on the field on a cold and windy Sunday morning at Robertson Field. Not because he was hitting home runs, but because he overcame three open heart surgeries to get there.Patrick, 12, was born with a rare heart condition called hypoplastic
NEW YORK -- Patrick Deegan was the toughest kid on the field on a cold and windy Sunday morning at Robertson Field. Not because he was hitting home runs, but because he overcame three open heart surgeries to get there.
Patrick, 12, was born with a rare heart condition called hypoplastic right heart syndrome. But he never let it stop him from playing out his passion for baseball, especially when he had the chance to meet former Yankees star Hideki Matsui.
Matsui brought 36 children together and joined them on Robertson Field at Satow Stadium in Manhattan to host a baseball clinic through the Matsui 55 Baseball Foundation. The kids, varying from ages 9-12, played alongside Matsui for nearly three hours, practicing their skills while learning from the best.
He was the Yanks' left fielder for seven years, but on Sunday, the 43-year-old Matsui squatted behind the plate, stretched at first base and threw from the hill, even breaking a bat in the process.
"The only pitching career I can imagine is probably batting practice pitching for the Little Leagues," Matsui jokingly said through a translator.
Founded in April 2015, the Matsui 55 Baseball Foundation has hosted baseball clinics for children in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Japan. This was Matsui's fourth clinic in New York, including events in Brooklyn and Staten Island. Matsui enjoys hosting clinics in multiple burroughs for a wider net of athletes.
Matsui gathered the kids in a small circle on the mound before every new activity, demonstrating the fundamentals of hitting, pitching and catching. The young players laid out for ground balls and took part in batting practice as Matsui offered instructional advice. Patrick hit the ball the farthest, even soliciting a "Wow!" from the host.
No matter how excited the kids were to be on the field, it seemed no one wanted to keep playing more than Matsui.
"One more, one more," he said as his coaches tried to wrap up an activity.
When it was time for Matsui to hit, he strapped on his batting gloves and put on a show for the kids like only Godzilla could. The players took a knee and huddled along the third-base line, buzzing remarks like, "Oh, he's bunting now," and "That one's definitely leaving the park." After warming up with a handful on fly balls to right field, Matsui unloaded on a deep home run as the kids jumped, hooted and hollered their approval.
"That's it, that's it," Matsui sheepishly said as the kids demanded more. He then sat in a chair on the mound, taking questions from the hungry and promising young athletes. Matsui capped off the day by taking pictures with every player, signing balls and T-shirts on request.
"I had a lot of fun and I hope the kids had fun; it seemed like they did." Matsui said. "And we do these a couple times a year, and I just hope that through this experience leaves some kind of a lasting experience for them, and it would be something that would help them continue to play baseball."
Deesha Thosar is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @DeeshaThosar.