CLEVELAND -- With the Indians hosting Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday at Progressive Field -- which they won, 2-1, for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven set -- the children of Cleveland got their own fill of baseball two miles down the road.Major League Baseball
CLEVELAND -- With the Indians hosting Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday at Progressive Field -- which they won, 2-1, for a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven set -- the children of Cleveland got their own fill of baseball two miles down the road.
Major League Baseball and USA Baseball hosted their joint Play Ball event at St. Ignatius High School, where hundreds of 4- to 13-year-olds cycled through different baseball stations. MLB also held a similar event at the same time in Chicago, where the Cubs are hosting Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday (8 p.m. on FS1).
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With home run derbies, agility drills, grounders and popups, the children got to get out and play with local coaches, Indians mascot Slider and former Indians Len Barker and Joe Charboneau.
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"The goal is to get as many kids out playing ball," Indians manager of youth baseball development Matt Kata said. "When you look around at all these rotations, there's a lot of ways to play ball. Part of my childhood growing up was the backyard games and home run derbies. You don't always need a glove, and I would roll up pairs of socks. That's definitely part of it. However you can play ball, you play ball. We're happy to support MLB in this initiative and sharing the same goals."
Twelve-year-olds Will Owens and Christian Wright enjoyed their time at the event after previously going to a baseball camp at St. Ignatius. Owens enjoyed the baserunning drills the most for the challenge, while Wright's favorite part was the extended home run derby.
"Baseball is my favorite sport," Wright said. "I'm good at other sports, too, but I find baseball more interesting than the rest of them."
"I have natural talent for throwing and hitting," Owens said. "It just became a really good thing to do once I understood it more. I've been playing it basically all my life. It just stuck to me."
The former players enjoyed the event as much as this kids, which is part of the reason why they have been team ambassadors for eight years. Although Barker and Charboneau grew up in Philadelphia and San Francisco, respectively, they have immersed themselves in the community of the city in which they played for a combined eight seasons.
"Baseball is the greatest sport there is, and seeing things like this, where kids get an opportunity to come out to do clinics and play baseball, the city has done a great thing for them," Barker said. "The Cleveland Indians have put a lot of money to help the inner city and different places to get the kids to play. And that's what it's about: keeping them off the street and giving them something to do."
Ben Weinrib is a reporter for MLB.com.