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MLBPAA hosts Legends for Youth Clinic in Lakeland

February 29, 2020

The best players are made when nobody is watching. Six former big-league players came out to the Simpson Park Community Center in Lakeland on Saturday morning to teach the fundamentals to a group of local kids between the ages of 6 and 16. The kids — both boys and girls

The best players are made when nobody is watching.

Six former big-league players came out to the Simpson Park Community Center in Lakeland on Saturday morning to teach the fundamentals to a group of local kids between the ages of 6 and 16.

The kids — both boys and girls — had the opportunity to learn from two World Series champions and a widely varied group of professionals as part of the Legends for Youth clinic series presented by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.

Lenny Faedo, a Tampa native and a former first-round draft pick who played in parts of five seasons for the Twins, said Saturday morning that one of the most important lessons he can impart to the young players is developing an all-consuming work ethic and passion for the game.

“These kids, as they start getting older, they’re going to do the right things when the coach is looking at them. But when the coach isn’t looking at them, they’re going to slide,” he said. “I’ve got news for you: The coach isn’t going to be looking at you as much as he’s not looking at you. So when he isn’t looking, you’d better be practicing things right or you’re not going to get better.”

Faedo, a former shortstop, handled the infield instruction Saturday morning, and the kids were tutored by former Cardinal Dave LaPoint on throwing techniques. Mark Whiten, who set a big-league record with 12 RBIs in one game, gave the group pointers on outfield play.

Ex-Giants infielder Brandon Hicks took on the mantle of baserunning instructor Saturday morning, and hitting instruction was handled by Mike Devereaux and Orestes Destrade.

Devereaux, a 1995 World Series champion and the MVP of the ’95 NLCS, is currently employed as an instructor at IMG Academy in Bradenton, and he said he enjoys working with young players.

“It’s always a great thing to work with the kids,” said Devereaux prior to the start of the clinic. “I love the game of baseball. It’s a wonderful game and to come into the community for a free clinic, it’s a great chance for these kids to see what it’s all about. I had no chance to do things like this, growing up in Wyoming. But it’s always good for us as players to get together and talk about old times. We want to see these kids get an opportunity to play and see how far it can take them.”

The kids shuttled between five different stations for the first two hours of the clinic, and then they spoke about life skills with the players for the final hour. Devereaux, a fleet-footed outfielder who played in 1,086 big-league games, said skill can be built through diligence and dedication.

“We try to teach the fundamentals,” he said. “It’s great to see young players getting better and respecting the game and respecting each other. You have to have the fundamentals down in order to succeed, and that’s true in every part of life including the game of baseball.”

Faedo recalled that his baseball instruction began at the age of nine, and he said his father, a former Minor League player, had delighted in helping him learn and grow in the game.

As he kept progressing, Faedo again came back to the same lesson: He was the only person who could determine how good he would become. If there’s anything the kids took from the clinic on Saturday, said Faedo, it’s that the game of baseball rewards those who work at it.

“Baseball’s not an easy game,” he said. “Some people call it a game of failure, but I think that failure is only for the person that’s unprepared. There’s a lot of unsuccessfulness in it, but there’s never failure in anything you do. The only way you can fail is if you’re not working at it. You’ve got to put time into your craft. That’s where professional instruction comes in. Because if you’re doing something wrong and you do it wrong long enough, sooner or later you’re perfectly wrong at it.”