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Players honored to inspire, give back in Hawaii

MLB squad readies for Japan All-Star Series
Special to MLB.com

HONOLULU -- Eugenio Suarez spent as much time as he could off the field this weekend, holding and playing with his young daughter.

The 27-year-old Reds infielder is embracing the time afforded to players during the offseason as an opportunity to reflect on his life as a husband, father and professional baseball player -- the result of his talent and disciplined commitment to hard work. He was also reminded how important it is to give back to the community, whether he is home in Venezuela or traveling the globe playing the game he loves.

HONOLULU -- Eugenio Suarez spent as much time as he could off the field this weekend, holding and playing with his young daughter.

The 27-year-old Reds infielder is embracing the time afforded to players during the offseason as an opportunity to reflect on his life as a husband, father and professional baseball player -- the result of his talent and disciplined commitment to hard work. He was also reminded how important it is to give back to the community, whether he is home in Venezuela or traveling the globe playing the game he loves.

"Everyone likes to watch baseball, so to show people around the world how we do it is a big honor for me," said Suarez.

Suarez is part of the Major League squad participating in the Hawaii Workout, a weekend trip that included training sessions at Les Murakami Stadium on the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus in Honolulu. He is joined by 2018 All-Stars such as Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto and Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger, as well as the Nationals' Juan Soto and the Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr., who were both rookie standouts this past season.

Players, coaches and support staff are spending the weekend on Oahu before heading to Japan for the 2018 Japan All-Star Series, during which the MLB squad will face off with counterparts from Nippon Professional Baseball in seven games from Thursday-Nov. 15. On Sunday, players engaged in light warmup drills, bullpen sessions and batting practice to the delight of a crowd that included youth baseball players and their families.

Video: Kirby Yates discusses Hawaii workouts, Japan Series

After wrapping up the day's practice, some players headed to Kahauiki Village, a recently opened transitional housing development spearheaded by Giants minority owner Duane Kurisu and his aio Foundation. The village was built as a public-private partnership to help homeless families, and when the project's second phase is completed, it is expected to house 629 adults and children -- close to half of Oahu's current population of homeless families.

"Who would have thought that we would have people of this caliber who are so compassionate about protecting peoples' dignity?" said Kurisu. "That's what it's all about: building a positive future for Hawaii and our children. We saw our vision come together as the players interacted with the children here, and they are an inspiration for others."

Suarez, Acuna, Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar and Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos pitched in by planting fruit trees as part of a new orchard for residents to enjoy. The MLB Players Association presented Kurisu and the aio Foundation with a check for $20,000 to assist with the impactful housing effort.

"This is really important for me to give back to these people without homes," said Suarez after receiving messages of "Mahalo" (thank you) from many of the village's children. "What [Kurisu] is doing for little kids like these and their families, it's a pleasure and honor to be here. I can go home happy after seeing these kids smiling."

Video: Manager Don Mattingly discusses Hawaii workouts

To end a busy Sunday, players visited historic Pearl Harbor.

"I'm really excited to see some history and learn about all the different things that have happened in Hawaii," Haniger said. "And, when we go to Japan, we'll get to see Hiroshima and really be immersed in the culture."

Molina spent ample time throughout the weekend on Oahu, talking to youth baseball and softball players about ways to stay physically fit and healthy -- a key component to his sustained success over 15 grueling seasons behind the plate as a Gold Glove Award-winning catcher.

"Eight years ago, I was young and didn't know how to take care of my body," Molina recalled. So, he brought on a trainer from Puerto Rico to help him recover and prepare during the offseason, "and right now, it's working for me. I like to run, and that's basically what I do, and every year, I want to be better."

Video: Yadier Molina discusses working out in Hawaii

Molina drew some of the loudest rounds of "oohs" and "ahhs" during batting practice, and waves of "Yadi!" chants.

"It's so important to be here and show them we appreciate the support they bring to us every season," Molina said. "Just seeing all the kids, it's awesome."

The All-Star Series extends a long tradition that dates back to 1908, and will mark the 37th time that Major Leaguers have toured Japan for exhibition games. The series will be played in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagoya, and MLB Network will provide extensive coverage, including live game telecasts.

Kyle Galdeira is a contributor to MLB.com.