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Local kids enjoy Legends for Youth Clinic at Kansas City Urban Youth Academy

October 7, 2018

KANSAS CITY -- Fortunately, the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy has phenomenal and state-of-the-art indoor facilities.That proved crucial at Saturday's free youth baseball clinic as heavy rains postponed outdoor activities. No problem, the event was moved inside a facility with a regulation infield, batting cages, a pitcher's mound and workout

KANSAS CITY -- Fortunately, the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy has phenomenal and state-of-the-art indoor facilities.
That proved crucial at Saturday's free youth baseball clinic as heavy rains postponed outdoor activities. No problem, the event was moved inside a facility with a regulation infield, batting cages, a pitcher's mound and workout facilities.
And much to the delight of an energetic group of youngsters aged 7-16, the clinic ended with a real game, an intrasquad game, so to speak.
The clinic was presented by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, with several former big-league stars on hand to provide instruction: Royals Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Leonard, former Royals World Series star Willie Aikens, former Royal-Cub-Met Brian McRae, David Patterson, Stan Wall, Clay Christiansen, Ed Hearn, Bobby Dernier and Russ Morman.
The rainy weather outside didn't dampen the spirits of the children who participated, most with their parents watching attentively.
What are the messages that instructors try to convey?
"The same stuff we're talking to high school kids about, college kids about, even at Spring Training, is what we talk to these kids about," McRae said. "Same basic fundamentals. The game has evolved in terms of terminology. But the game is still the same in terms of fundamentals. It's still a game where whoever catches the ball or throws the ball or hits the ball best wins.
"And you can't teach advance things until you establish the basic and fundamental things. Baseball can be a simple game but you have to start with the basic stuff first. It's all about repetition. There's no magic. It's hard work."
The instructors broke up into six teaching stations Saturday, ranging from baserunning to hitting to fielding to pitching.
Leonard obviously handled the pitching station.
"The thing is with most of these camps is that you're dealing with some kids who have never pitched -- they're too young," Leonard said. "They're playing T-ball and the concept of pitching hasn't entered into their minds yet. So, you have to really break it down and just teach them the fundamentals of mechanics of throwing.
"It's just things like keep your elbow up when you throw. They're so young they don't have the strength to really throw far and even if you teach them the mechanics, the ball probably won't go very far. But the point is, as they mature and grow and get older, they will have the fundamentals in their mind and then they can really take off."
The one question Leonard typically gets from the youngsters: Were you a star?
"I tell them," Leonard said, smiling, "I was a player when your parents were your age. That usually gets them thinking."

Jeffrey Flanagan has covered the Royals since 1991, and for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter @FlannyMLB