MIAMI -- An overcast morning didn’t dim the baseball spirits of several hundred children ready to Play Ball on Friday morning at Flamingo Park.
As part of Major League Baseball’s Play Ball initiative, youth baseball and softball players participated in drills and fundamentals at one of the better youth facilities in southwest Broward County.
Representing the Marlins at the event were president of baseball operations Michael Hill, former player Alex Arias and mascot Billy the Marlin.
Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank C. Ortis was on hand, as well as other local dignitaries. There was music, popcorn, a bounce house and plenty of baseball instruction.
“It’s just an honor,” Ortis said. “It’s all part of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ ‘Play Ball’ theme. We’ve got 300 of these going around the country today. These kids are going to participate in this great event.”
Arias, a utility player on the Marlins’ 1997 World Series title team, spoke briefly with the players. His own children once played on the same fields where he offered instruction on Friday.
“For me, if I were a kid, I’d probably be the most excited kid on the field because I didn’t get this as a kid,” Arias said. “I hope these guys enjoy it.
“Every time I come here, I have memories. Memories of my kids playing, having fun. Now, I get to see the other kids get to do it. It’s pretty exciting.”
Arias, like so many former players, makes South Florida his home, and he is frequently involved in community events.
“It’s tremendous having Alex because now the kids can relate,” Ortis said. “Look, he’s a Major League former player, coming back to talk to us. So, they have hope. We have a tremendous program here. The fields are in pristine condition, and the kids love it.”
A message Arias gives to the kids is to take advantage of opportunities to get better.
“Any time there is an event like this, come out,” Arias said. “The Marlins are providing something great for the kids, a great experience. I think everyone should take advantage of this. You don’t get this all the time.”