Dreams recalled, then made at baseball clinic
Bowie among former Major Leaguers on hand at event for kids with disabilities
AUSTIN, Texas -- One by one, they introduced themselves, told the crowd a little bit about their baseball careers and their favorite moments from those careers.
For Micah Bowie, it was the record-breaking 20-game winning streak he helped the A's reel off in 2002. Twelve years later, Bowie was one of nine former Major League players in attendance at the Legends for Youth Baseball Clinic in North Austin, an event set up to give children with disabilities a chance to enjoy the game of baseball, too.
Bowie ran one of the clinic's baserunning stations and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the kids in his group light up as they crossed the plate. The smiles he saw on their faces even reminded him of the smiles he and his teammates had on their faces when Scott Hatteberg's walk-off home run clinched their team's 20th straight win more than a decade ago.
"When they come home and everyone is cheering and yelling, you would've thought they just hit a home run in the playoffs or the World Series," Bowie said. "These are people who need fun. They need the sport. They need these things in their lives. You forget sometimes the things you need in your life and that baseball can help fulfill those needs."
The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association partnered with CTX Ability Sports and the League of Dreams, organizations providing activities to children with special needs and their families, to hold the clinic. Several local celebrities, including Austin mayor Lee Leffingwell, also participated in the event, joining with the former big leaguers in throwing out ceremonial first pitches to some of the kids there.
"You can't underestimate the thrill it gives young kids to play organized baseball," said Leffingwell, who played baseball for Travis High School, once helping the Rebels win a district championship. "It is the nation's sport. I know a lot of people like football, and I do, too, but baseball has a long history of being the sport that everyone grows up with."
After the event's opening ceremonies, the nine former Major Leaguers split up and ran different stations, teaching the kids various baseball skills -- throwing, catching, hitting and baserunning. They were assisted by football players from nearby Vista Ridge High School.
"They're doing something that you did as a little kid and as a Major Leaguer -- you're playing catch," said former Angels pitcher Sherman Corbett, who ran one of the throwing and catching stations. "Seeing some of those guys make contact with the ball, running and touching a base, essentially they're doing some of the same fundamentals that the Major Leaguers are doing. When that brings a smile to their face, it brings a smile to our face as well."
The children participating benefited from a wealth of baseball experience all over the field. Between those nine former players -- third baseman/shortstop Odie Davis, pitcher Mike Smith, catcher Jeff DeWillis, right-hander Bart Evans, catcher Doug Gwosde, outfielder Carl Warwick, catcher George Williams, Corbett and Bowie -- played a combined 93 seasons of professional baseball, including 28 in the big leagues.
"I know they've all got disabilities, but they recognize us and they want to be around us," said Smith. "I just like to give back. I'll do this stuff as long as they keep inviting me. I love being around people and being around kids."