Marlins give back to community for Impact Week
In first of weeklong events, players teach fundamentals to students
MIAMI -- The Miami Marlins Foundation kicked off its new initiative -- Impact Week -- on Friday with a Play Ball event at Poinciana Park Elementary School.
Marlins players Jeff Brigham, Isan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto were joined by former Marlins standout Gaby Sanchez, Marlins Mermaids and Billy The Marlin, as an estimated 300 students were instructed in a fun environment on the fundamentals of baseball and softball, including hitting, fielding and throwing.
"We're really proud to kick off Impact Week here at Poinciana Park Elementary," said Miami Marlins Foundation executive director Raquel Egusquiza. "It's a Slugger Schoolhouse and as part of our work at the foundation we have an activity here every month of the school year."
The Miami Marlins Foundation Slugger Schoolhouse program brings together year-round resources from the Marlins, MLB and its partners to schools in the Marlins Park neighborhood. Each year, the foundation coordinates a minimum of one monthly touch point with the schools throughout the year. In addition to Poinciana Park Elementary, additional participating schools include Lenora B. Smith Elementary and Kensington Park Elementary.
"Slugger Schoolhouse is a new program we launched this year," Egusquiza said. "We selected schools in neighborhoods close to Marlins Park where we could engage our players and front office with the schools on a consistent basis."
In addition to baseball activities, wellness, food and nutrition, and academic activities are also included in the program.
"We're going to be doing conversations about Jackie Robinson's nine values," Egusquiza said. "We're hoping that we can be a partner with the schools and with the kids to help them succeed academically and in life."
Impact Week isn't all about baseball, but about having an impact on different parts of the community in different ways by creating opportunities to foster an active lifestyle, achieve academic success, and build leadership skills. The entire Marlins organization, including players, alumni and executives, will participate in seven events in seven days.
But on Friday, the focus was on fundamentals of baseball and for Sanchez, who was born and raised in Miami, the day was an extra special one.
"It always feels great to be able to give back and be in a position to give back," said the former Marlins All-Star first baseman. "That's the biggest thing for me, being able to work with the Marlins and stay on as an ambassador and be able to come to events like this. What better way to start a homestand than to be able to come out and have guys from the teams getting out here and just playing and showing the ins and outs of baseball and brighten up some days for the kids."
The Marlins opened a seven-game homestand Friday, their final one of August, against the Phillies.
Stationed by the T-ball stand, Sanchez didn't just set the ball on the tee, he provided detailed instruction to those who came through.
"If I'm going to do it, I do it 100 percent," said Sanchez, who spent the first four-plus years of his seven-year Major League career with the Marlins. "I'm going to go out there and teach them as much as I possibly can for the short amount of time we have them for. I'm always going to do as much as I can to try to teach, especially the younger kids that are coming up, to get them loving baseball as much as I did growing up."
It was just as rewarding for Marlins relative newcomers Brigham, Diaz and Yamamoto.
"I think it's cool to have some real good young players, the future of Miami, to get out here and get the kids involved with baseball and hopefully create some Marlins fans out here and make some memories for them," said Brigham, a September callup last season who has stuck with the big league club since late May.
Brigham said that making an impact is what motivated him to be at the school today.
"Giving kids positive outlets that they can spend their time on and create new experiences," Brigham explained.
Tania Jones, principal of Poinciana Park, was thankful for that opportunity for her students.
"This is a super exciting day for our boys and girls as well as our staff," Jones said. "We are happy and pleased to have the Marlins come and show our boys and girls the skills of baseball. We are truly excited about the partnership."
And for Larry Pye, Poinciana Park's physical education teacher, it was only the start of a very big day. In his 39th year as a P.E. teacher, all at Miami-Dade public schools, Pye was to be honored prior to the Marlins' first pitch as recipient of the "Ballpark Wishes" recognition.
It's a new initiative launched by the Miami Marlins Foundation this season that celebrates individuals or organizations that are making an impact in wellness and empowerment in the local community.
"It's a great honor," said Pye. "When you do things that you love and then someone comes and says they're going to recognize you, it's special.
"I love sports. When I got into P.E. at elementary schools I just saw that the kids were just hungry to learn things. I enjoy working with the little kids because they are so absorbent. You teach them something, they pick it up quick," said Pye, who has spent 37 of his 39 years at the elementary school level.
"I kind of found my niche in elementary schools," he said.