Oakland youth get a taste of big leagues at LFY clinic

Former big leaguers conduct drills for 84 kids at Oakland-Alameda County Colesium

September 21st, 2017

OAKLAND, Calif. -- After participating in various baseball drills for more than an hour, a group of kids came to the dugout to get water.

But, as one kid pointed out, this wasn't just any dugout.

"This is water from the A's dugout!" the kid exclaimed with a smile.

The moment was part of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) Legends for Youth Baseball Clinic on Wednesday in Oakland.

Eighty-four kids participated in the free two-hour clinic, co-sponsored by Fanatics and the A's, in the Coliseum, one of a small number of Major League stadiums that have hosted MLBPAA clinics this year. The amazement in the eyes of many kids at playing in an MLB ballpark was familiar to Shooty Babitt, an Oakland native and former A's infielder.

"A couple of times a year, I did get a chance to come out, whether it was for Bat Day or Hat Day," Babitt said. "To know I was going to get a Bert Campaneris bat to go home and play with in the backyard was amazing."

Babitt was joined by former big leaguers Tiny Felder, Tim Fortugno, Joe Kmak, Eric Schullstrom, Tom Urbani and Gary Wilson, who each ran a station focused on a specific aspect of baseball. The kids rotated from station to station in groups, learning the proper techniques in hitting, pitching, throwing, catching, baserunning and fielding. MLBPAA's Legends for Youth clinics run more than 150 free events annually, including 185 in 2017. They run events all around the nation and internationally, teaching the basic fundamentals and life skills to more than 1,600 children.

Kmak, a catcher who played parts of two seasons in the Majors in the 1990s, has coached high school baseball in the Bay Area for more than a decade. Despite combining that with being a teacher at a San Mateo high school, he enjoys working as many MLBPAA clincs as he can.

"I think it's fantastic," Kmak said. "I've always loved being around the game and loved being around kids. It's always enjoyable to pass on the knowledge you have and see someone else benefit from what you've taught them. I feel it's important to give back."

Babitt played for the A's in 1981, batting .256 in his only Major League season and finishing fifth in Rookie of the Year voting. He's still associated with the A's, most notably for being a television analyst on the team's games for the past decade. A long-time scout currently working for the Mets, he can truly appreciate what the chance to give back to his community means for the kids.

"To get up front with a former Major Leaguer or get to come out on the field? We were never afforded that opportunity," Babitt said. "What a thrill. I played here, I grew up in the Bay Area, and now I get to give it back to the kids. It's just a great experience."