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Fish nurture youth baseball at Play Ball Weekend

MLB.com

MIAMI -- Thomas Zur III wants to be the next Brian Anderson. On Sunday afternoon during the Marlins' Play Catch Day -- part of Miami's Play Ball at Marlins Park Weekend -- he got to live out his dream.

Zur's father, Thomas Zur Jr., said that he and his 5-year-old son have been partaking in this event for many years and it's always the highlight of their summer.

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MIAMI -- Thomas Zur III wants to be the next Brian Anderson. On Sunday afternoon during the Marlins' Play Catch Day -- part of Miami's Play Ball at Marlins Park Weekend -- he got to live out his dream.

Zur's father, Thomas Zur Jr., said that he and his 5-year-old son have been partaking in this event for many years and it's always the highlight of their summer.

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"This is so cool. We've done this multiple times since he's been little, and he loves it more than anything," Zur said, beaming as the father-son duo tossed a baseball back and forth. "It's a great family event, makes wonderful memories and a couple photos and it's for the Marlins Foundation."

Each year, Play Catch Day affords the Zur family, and countless others, an opportunity to have an incredibly unique and priceless baseball moment, playing catch on the field at a Major League ballpark. Hours before the Marlins took on the Phillies on Sunday afternoon, the outfield grass was covered with young Marlins fans having a blast, playing with their relatives.

Zur Jr. explained that his son has wanted to be a member of the Marlins for his entire young life. The family has season tickets and sits at home games just behind third base down the left-field line.

"He wants to be a third baseman," Zur Jr. explained, pointing out his son's full Marlins uniform, including everything from a customized jersey to a pair of crisp, white baseball pants. "The Marlins have been so kind -- he met Brian Anderson who came out and said hello. Just wonderful representatives of the community and another reason to support the Marlins."

Play Catch Day is part of the Marlins' annual Play Ball at Marlins Park Weekend, a jam-packed three days of activities and events for local families and members of the Miami community.

On Friday, right-hander Brett Graves and members of the Marlins' athletic training staff hosted the PLAY campaign, educating area youth about the importance of leading healthy and active lives.

On Saturday, the Marlins awarded two Marlins RBI student-athletes each with a $2,500 scholarship to continue their education. Fans were also encouraged to bring new or used baseball equipment for donation to the Marlins RBI program as part of Miami's Baseball Tommorow Fund equipment drive. Fans who donated received a voucher for two tickets to a future game.

Marlins Park also hosted a clinic on the field early Saturday morning for RBI ballplayers, featuring Marlins alumni Antonio Alfonseca and Alex Arias.

Arias, who won a World Series with the Marlins in 1997, said the clinic was an incredible opportunity for the kids involved, something he loves being a part of.

"I enjoy doing stuff like this. It really helps the kids," Arias said. "It's not about all the reps that they do, it's about the tips that you give them. We talked to them about having a good attitude, listening to your peers and coaches. Just doing the right thing and going out there and making the game of baseball fun."

Arias, Alfonseca and other former big leaguers instructed the participants at different stations around the ballpark -- from the batting cages, bullpen, outfield grass and infield dirt. Arias worked with shortstops and second basemen on fielding ground balls, making good throws and turning double plays. All the while, members of the Marlins were beginning to warm up for the game.

"I remember as a kid, I never had an opportunity to step on a Major League field," Arias said. "I always wanted that dream to step on a field, and these guys are standing here watching these MLB players stretch out and get ready for a ballgame and be able to get a taste ... That's something I never got. I told one of the groups, I said, 'Listen guys, I have a World Series championship and I played many seasons in the Major Leagues. But I would take all of that back and be 15 again.' They have so much now that I'm a little jealous, in a good way."

To Arias, the next Marlins top prospect was in the group of ballplayers on the field Saturday.

"One of these kids, they'll be a star," Arias said, confidently. "He's in RBI and had an opportunity to step on a Major League field and work with some pros. There's always a story. Hopefully we'll see one of these young men playing here at Marlins Park someday."

On Sunday, and as Zur Jr. and his son threw the ball one more time before the event came to a close, it was clear that another Play Ball Weekend was in the books.

"To be able to play catch with my son and help the community, there's nothing better," Zur Jr. said.

Max Goodman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow him on Twitter @Max_Goodman97.

Miami Marlins