EVANSTON, Ill. -- Lost in the crowd of more than 450 youngsters at the Baseball ProCamp sharing his name, Javier Baez bounced around from station to station until one small child finally grabbed his attention."Javy," the child shouted. "Your bat is on fire."Perhaps, but that wasn't why the infielder has
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Lost in the crowd of more than 450 youngsters at the Baseball ProCamp sharing his name, Javier Baez bounced around from station to station until one small child finally grabbed his attention.
"Javy," the child shouted. "Your bat is on fire."
Perhaps, but that wasn't why the infielder has a .390/.405/.659 slash line in July with a four-game multihit streak had ventured out to Evanston Township High School on Thursday. Instead, Baez was there to help kids grades 1-8 learn the fundamentals of baseball as part of a ProCamp that partnered with the McCormick Boys & Girls Club to provide camp scholarships to disadvantaged kids.
And that was exactly what Baez did after returning his thanks to the child, who proceeded to run off with a sheepish smile to go tell his friends about the moment. The Cubs star went over to one of the groups, teaching them the proper way to lay down a bunt. It was a familiar image throughout the day.
"Really fun, really fun," Baez said. "In life, you don't stop learning. It's the same with baseball. You always learn something new about the game, and you get better. So we decided to teach some kids how to get better at baseball and motivate them to keep working, because that's where it really pays off."
Certainly there were plenty of lessons to go around. There were plenty of smiles as well.
Baez worked through tens of groups of campers, playing a few games of catch and stopping for photos at just about every turn. Among the moments that stood out was an instance with one camper who simply wanted a better look at the tattoo on Baez's left shoulder and some others that were interested in learning the secret to a perfect tag.
"It's for the kids. When I was a kid, I didn't have this," Baez said. "It's a new opportunity for them, and obviously it's a good thing for them to keep on the right track."
The opportunity came with some prizes, too.
The finale of the indoor events featured a throwing contest for a signed baseball from Baez himself. It was between four campers, who took turns trying to knock down bottles that were placed about 20 feet away.
After the throwers each took their turn, the camp announced all four would all be getting a signed baseball, which led to a cheer from the hundreds of kids and family members in attendance. Baez, whose smile never left his face throughout the day, appreciated the moment and said he was especially happy to be able to deliver such a positive message.
"To work. To work and practice," Baez said, when asked what the most important thing to remember was. "It really pays off."
Scott Chasen is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.