SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar scanned the outfield at Hiram Bithorn Stadium on Monday afternoon, saw hundreds of kids running around the field as part of Major League Baseball's Play Ball initiative and imagined his younger self running along with them.Maybe an 8-year-old Alomar would
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar scanned the outfield at Hiram Bithorn Stadium on Monday afternoon, saw hundreds of kids running around the field as part of Major League Baseball's Play Ball initiative and imagined his younger self running along with them.
Maybe an 8-year-old Alomar would have hit way too many homers to count in the home run derby station. He probably would have owned the ground-ball and popup drills. But most importantly, he would have had fun, and Monday at the ballpark was all about fun.
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"All I did was play baseball as a kid, and I would have loved this," said Alomar, who works as a consultant for Major League Baseball. "Every time I see young kids, I see myself. I was a kid once and all of the time I spent playing baseball when I was young helped me become the player I was. Maybe this can help these kids like that, too."
The latest edition of the Play Ball activation featured more than 450 participants from all over Puerto Rico. In addition to hitting and fielding drills, activities included baserunning and agility workouts. All participants on Monday received a bat-and-ball set along with a Play Ball T-shirt and wristbands.
"With the hurricane, the damage and all of the tragedy they have endured, we want this to be a bright spot for the kids," said Tony Reagins, Major League Baseball's executive vice president of baseball and softball development. "We want to shine a light on the kids and give them something they can remember forever. It's about creating smiles and a positive experience for our game."
The Play Ball activation capped a busy day for Major League Baseball on the island. The morning began with a golf tournament to benefit the Boys & Girls Club and Habitat for Humanity. Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor visited his old elementary school in Gurabo, while Twins pitcher Jose Berrios and teammates visited San Jorge Children's Hospital. Later in the afternoon, Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario ran a clinic for 75 students at his former high school in Guayama.
There are more activities scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday before the night games at Hiram Bithorn Stadium.
"Baseball has looked at this opportunity for sometime now, and with what the island has gone through, this has an even greater impact," Reagins said. "We are excited to bring our youth activation here and get the young people engaged on a Major League field and provide a connection to our game and a great experience."
Alomar was joined on the field by former Major League player Carlos Baerga. Together, the Puerto Rican baseball legends helped out with drills and shared some advice with the young participants.
"It was important for me at that age to see Major League players come back to help and I want to do the same thing for the next generation," Baerga said. "This isn't just about baseball. I'm here to tell them about life, the importance of education, respecting people and things like that. Part of being a good player is being a good person."
Play Ball launched in June 2015 and has operated events in hundreds of cities across the United States. The program continues to increase in numbers.
"We are little over 2 1/2 years in and the interest level continues to grow," Reagins said. "We continue to go into communities around the country that need it and that we want to engage. It's important to our overall strategy, in terms of access to our game, and hopefully we can create lifelong fans as a result of this."
Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.