HARTFORD, Conn. -- Holding a fungo bat and standing in the outfield, Bill Lee tossed up a baseball and took aim at the giant coffee cup that sat high atop the video board inside a Minor League stadium.Known as "Spaceman" to baseball fans of a certain age, Lee may as
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Holding a fungo bat and standing in the outfield, Bill Lee tossed up a baseball and took aim at the giant coffee cup that sat high atop the video board inside a Minor League stadium.
Known as "Spaceman" to baseball fans of a certain age, Lee may as well been Superman to a small group of youngsters as they watched the ball travel upwards, about the height of an eight-story building. Upon seeing it land inside the 15-foot cup and hearing the clanking noise of it bouncing around, the kids were astonished.
"Down in the cup!" one kid yelled.
Lee hit his target between sessions at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) Legends for Youth Baseball clinic on Saturday at Dunkin' Donuts Park, providing a memory that he says the kids will long remember.
The two-hour free clinic, sponsored by Arch Insurance, was attended by 57 kids, about half the number of those who originally registered. The event was originally scheduled for May 13, but it was postponed by rain.
Lee was joined by former big leaguers Angel Echevarria, Dave Fleming, Nick Gorneault, Joe Lahoud, Matt Merullo and Gary Waslewski. Each one ran a station that focused on a specific aspect of baseball. The kids were broken into groups and rotated from station to station, learning fundamentals from MLB alumni who appeared in more than 2,000 games spanning five decades.
The alumni ran stations that taught the proper techniques in hitting, pitching, catching, baserunning and throwing.
"I teach baseball -- the whole package. You've got to have it," said Lee, who won 119 games in 14 seasons with the Boston Red Sox and Montreal Expos. "You've got to have it. They've got to have a love of the game."
Fleming, a former pitcher with the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals, taught the kids about life skills. He won 17 games in his first full season in the Majors and seemed destined for a productive career until it was derailed by an arm injury. After retiring, he became an elementary school teacher in Connecticut.
"I tell the kids to try to pick one or two things, because it's a lot of information," Fleming said. "I know as a teacher, kids seem to check out a little bit sometimes because mentally it's hard to concentrate on people."
Lahoud, a former outfielder who began his 11-year career with the Red Sox, taught some of the same things to kids at the clinic that he learned years ago from Carl Yastrzemski when he made his big league debut in 1968.
Lahoud showed kids how to track fly balls to the warning track, play the carom off the wall and the proper position of your glove when catching a fly ball.
"What I'm trying to tell them is the things that they're learning today, they still teach in the big leagues," Lahoud said. "No matter what level of ball they go on to play, whether it's Little League or onto high school, everything you're learning out there today, they're going to be teaching you the same thing. They may go about it a different way, but the fundamentals are the same."
Those who attended the clinic received a free T-shirt and baseball that were autographed by the former players on the concourse of the new stadium.
MLBPAA's Legends for Youth clinics run more than 150 free events annually around the nation, teaching the basic fundamentals and life skills to more than 1,600 children.