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MLB alumni give back at youth clinic in Miami

Former Marlins Pavano, Harris among seven big leaguers in attendance

MIAMI -- As a kid, Carl Pavano attended baseball clinics each year at Beehive Field in New Britain, Conn.

Pavano learned baseball's fundamentals from guys like Curt Schilling until it finally paid off. On May 23, 1998, the right-hander made his Major League debut with the Montreal Expos against Schilling and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Sixteen years later, Pavano was instructing kids ages 6-16 at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) Legends for Youth baseball clinic series Saturday morning at Marlins Park.

"I remember it being a good time and informative," said Pavano, who pitched 14 seasons. "Not sure how much you retain -- it's tough to get through the excitement in uniform with these guys who were Major Leaguers. It's a good time. I'm glad I could give back. I'm at a stage now where I'm on the other end of it instead of receiving, so it's rewarding."

The free clinic ran for two hours with the help of Lenny Harris, Jose Cruz Jr., Steve Hertz, Skip Lockwood, Orlando Palmeiro and George Lombard.

There were six stations teaching a specific skill: pitching, batting, outfield and infield play, throwing and baserunning.

Lockwood, who spent 12 seasons in the Majors and compiled a 3.55 ERA, worked the pitching station. He previously helped out at clinics in New England and the Virgin Islands.

After teaching the fundamentals, such as which foot goes on the rubber and how to grip the ball, the right-hander focused on teaching the importance of every pitch.

"We'll talk about getting position on the ball, how to push and drive," Lockwood said. "Pitching's control. Teach them how to throw. Every pitch is important. It's not just playing catch. If the guy you're throwing to is chasing the ball all over the place we're not having a successful station."

Kids were so excited they raced each other to the water cooler or the next station. No one wanted to be the last to get a turn in at a drill. Palmeiro marveled at how quickly the 6-year-olds picked up baserunning technique.

Audrey Cobb, the only girl in attendance, was in town from Charlotte, N.C. Her family had another event when her mother told her about the clinic.

Cobb, 11, plays softball and played tee ball when she was younger. She liked learning about the correct batting stance from Hertz.

"It was really, really cool," Cobb said. "It was fun to be able to learn baseball from people so great and good at it and [who] played so well."

The MLBPAA was founded in 1982, with the mission of promoting baseball, raising money for charity and protecting the dignity of the game through its alumni players.

According to Geoff C. Hixson, chief operating officer of the MLBPAA, there will be 107 events in 2014 around the world. When he started 18 years ago, there were only five.

Harris was drafted out of Miami Jackson High School in 1983 and didn't have the benefit of Saturday's clinic growing up in Miami.

"Major League Baseball never got involved with the community like they do today," said Harris, the all-time pinch-hit leader. "Especially down here in Florida, there was no team. They're doing an excellent job."

Hunter Fiori and 11 of his teammates came to the clinic. Their 12-and-under travel team, the Pasadena Lakes Panthers, plays in the Florida Premier League.

Giovanni Brown, who has been playing for five years, went on the urging of his coach. The 13-year-old hopes to play in the Majors one day.

"One of my coaches told me about the clinic and [that] it would probably make me play a little bit better," Brown said.

The clinic concluded with a 15-minute talk on life skills followed by an autograph session.

Harris emphasized the importance of preparation and how everyone makes mistakes -- even in the Majors. Hertz told the kids to "be all you can be" in order to achieve self-respect.

"I'm excited to pass some things on to the kids," Pavano said. "That's what it's all about. Share our knowledge, share their passion and enthusiasm with them. That reminds me of growing up. It's a pretty exciting time."