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Cash reflects on impact of good coaches at clinic

ST. PETERSBURG -- Kevin Cash knows how important a good coach can be for a Little Leaguer. So the Rays' new manager was more than happy to participate in Saturday's clinic at Tropicana Field in order to help instruct Little League T-ball teams from Charlotte, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties.

"I think any kid that age -- and I know looking back -- that Little League [coaches], your good ones, are like a second dad," said Cash. "You're not only teaching them baseball, but they have that presence about them where you want to be at the park with them. So they have a good structure."

The clinic Cash took part in was just a part of the Rays' initiative weekend that will provide jerseys and caps to over 5,500 T-ball players and coaches for more than 50 Little Leagues.

"I think it's awesome that all of these moms and dads get involved," Cash said. "Even people that don't have kids coach now. I think the impact that Little League baseball has -- not just on playing baseball, but from growing up in the area and [seeing] the structure it provides -- helps some kids get off the computer and the iPads and all of that. Get outside and play."

Cash, who hails from Tampa, played on the Northside Little League team that represented Tampa in the 1989 Little League World Series.

"I think the biggest thing at that level is how much you can keep it fun and exciting for the kids," Cash said. "So many times you see [a] kid's parent get involved and they think their 6- to 9-year-old is destined to be a No. 1 Draft pick. And they're getting a little ahead of themselves. What happens is, you put so much pressure on them that you force them out of wanting to play. So as much as you can keep it fun, [it] is important.

"I've done some personal lessons in the past, and you get around some of these parents. Their kid swings and misses one time and they start panicking in the batting cage. The more you can make it fun and relaxed, to where they're enjoying themselves and the other teammates and that camaraderie, I think the more benefit they're going to have with wanting to stay in the game and stay active in it."

Cash caught himself listening to what he said about keeping the game fun, and noted that philosophy has applications to a Major League team.

"I think we all know that it's a business, and our job is to go out there and perform and win," Cash said. "But, at the same time, we spend a lot of time at the ballpark during the season, and it's obviously a long season. So the more you make it enjoyable for our players and coaches and everybody involved day in and day out, that's kind of a big thing I'd like to do.

"I've heard what time guys get to the ballpark. You want to create that atmosphere where they want to be there because they enjoy that atmosphere we're all creating together."

The uniforms given away by the Rays included 18 variations of Rays colors and styles to give the region's young Little Leaguers a big league look. The jerseys were created by Majestic Athletic, the official uniform supplier of Major League Baseball.

This is the second year the Rays have put together such an initiative. The total savings from the project, as reported by the participating leagues, is estimated at approximately $115,000.

As a result of these savings, officials from some of the participating leagues have noted that they now have the ability to repair their scoreboards, provide paint upgrades to dugouts, add fencing for fields, fund new equipment purchases and grounds-crew supplies and repair concession stands and other facilities.

Rays players Grant Balfour and Jake Odorizzi will help conduct clinics for the kids on Sunday at Tropicana Field.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for
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