NEW YORK -- Mets ambassador/infield coordinator Tim Teufel was right on the money when he said the 65 kids at the Play Ball event on Saturday had a lot of energy.The event took place at O'Donohue Park in Far Rockaway, Queens. It was the third stop of the "Five Borough
NEW YORK -- Mets ambassador/infield coordinator Tim Teufel was right on the money when he said the 65 kids at the Play Ball event on Saturday had a lot of energy.
The event took place at O'Donohue Park in Far Rockaway, Queens. It was the third stop of the "Five Borough NYC Play Ball Tour," a unique effort launched this year. The tour, which has already stopped in Manhattan and the Bronx, is designed to capture New York City's love of baseball and reintroduce the many casual forms of baseball and softball that have been synonymous with the five boroughs, and loved by New Yorkers, for decades.
Watching these kids do their thing, Teufel had a flashback to when he was growing up in Connecticut.
"It was the same grass, the smell of the grass," Teufel said. "The energy is the same. It brings you back to your childhood when you played ball as a little kid. As I encouraged these kids, I said, 'This is where it all began. You have a dream, and if you have talent, play the game of baseball.'"
If the kids had their way, they would have played baseball all day on Saturday. That's how much they enjoyed the event, which lasted 2 1/2 hours. The kids ran through five stations -- home run derby, fielding, agility, baserunning and a brief baseball game.
There was one kid, Taylor Gardner, who hit two balls over the right-field fence during the home run derby and that opened Teufel's eyes.
"That kid has a special tool," Teufel said. "He can hit. You can see the rhythm he had. I was like, 'Oh, man, he is only probably eight years old.' He could hit the ball well. I encouraged him. I said, 'Hey, make sure you are playing baseball because you have a special talent. See where it takes you.'"
Gardner learned the game through his father, and he has dreams of becoming a Major Leaguer.
"I've been playing since I was six," Gardner said. "I felt really good [when I swung the bat]. For [Teufel] to be impressed by me, it felt really good."
Zoe Black, another participant, enjoyed baserunning the most of all the things she did at the event.
"It helps me build my momentum. It gets me fit," Black said. "You have to stay in shape to run all the bases. What if you hit an [inside the park] home run? You can't get tired midway and stop."
Black was one of several girls who was at the Play Ball event.
"If you want to play ball, play ball," encouraged David James, who is vice president of youth programs at Major League Baseball.
Bill Ladson has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. He covered the Nationals/Expos from 2002-2016. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.