HOUSTON -- Hundreds of children took advantage of a sunny and warm Saturday morning to learn how to play baseball. The Houston Astros Foundation and Astros Urban Youth Academy teamed up with USA Baseball, USA Softball and Major League Baseball to bring Play Ball to the Spring Spirit Baseball Complex.The
HOUSTON -- Hundreds of children took advantage of a sunny and warm Saturday morning to learn how to play baseball. The Houston Astros Foundation and Astros Urban Youth Academy teamed up with USA Baseball, USA Softball and Major League Baseball to bring Play Ball to the Spring Spirit Baseball Complex.
The Play Ball initiative is an effort to encourage youth to participate in baseball or softball related activities, including formal leagues, events and casual forms of play. Play Ball is MLB's signature youth engagement activity during the professional and amateur baseball and softball calendar, including key dates throughout the MLB offseason, regular season, postseason and the World Series.
This event celebrated the Astros and the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World with several different stations throughout the turf field, allowing more than 300 children to learn the fundamentals of baseball. For many, it was their first experience with the game. Not a single glove was worn on any hand. The kids used plastic bats to blast their first home runs over the right-field fence at one station. At another, children scored after running to all four bases. At the end of the day, each child received their own plastic bat and a ball to go along with it.
Twila Carter, executive director of community affairs and the Astros Foundation, said the event provides a place for children to get outside and learn how to play the game.
"It's a fun introduction to baseball for the kids with MLB's initiative," Carter said. "It's really about getting kids up, out and off the sofa. [We're] really just giving them some basic instruction in baseball."
Play Ball proved to be a healthy distraction from the life-altering events of the past month, since Hurricane Harvey brought destruction and devastation to the area. Many homes still have yet to have their trash picked up, as was evident in a nearby neighborhood. While the children may not fully understand what took place, they have witnessed tragedy from a natural disaster. Carter is happy baseball could provide a positive outlet from the life-changing tragedy.
"Young people may not have a full comprehension of the hurricane and its devastation, but they see their parents stressed. They see them worried and concerned about the housing situation," Carter said. "To provide a diversion for these young people, and to get out, have fun and be a kid just takes a little stress off them. The impact is not just on the adults. It's also on the kids. Can you imagine every time it rains? They're probably afraid it's going to be another hurricane."
Another positive distraction for the entire Gulf Coast is the successful season of the Houston Astros. The Astros are currently in the ALCS against the New York Yankees. Daryl Wade, the director of the Houston Youth Academy, sees the impact a successful professional baseball team has on youth and their interest in playing the game.
"We've had events when you ask a kid who their favorite player is, it may be a player from the Boston Red Sox or the Los Angeles Dodgers," Wade explained. "Now when you ask kids, it is a George Springer. It is a Jose Altuve. It is a Carlos Correa. That's important to us as the Astros organization that we have players that kids now look up to and want them to be their role models."
Many sports teach valuable life lessons including teamwork and how to compete. Wade gave specific examples of how baseball can help provide future success.
"Baseball teaches you all of life's lessons," Wade said. "It teaches you how to be successful. It teaches you when you're not successful, how to deal with it. A great baseball average is .300. When you have a .300 average in life, you're going to be successful. Of course, we want our kids to be above .500 in life. But to have that .300 average, it teaches you that you can also get through this. Trouble is only going to last for a short time, so we have to keep going and keep moving forward."
Cameron Brock is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.