DETROIT -- From meet-and-greets to on-field clinics, Play Ball Weekend is a chance for boys and girls to get an up-close look at some of their favorite players. Detroit will host 15 events/attractions Thursday through Sunday, all centered on bringing baseball to young kids and families.The second annual Play Ball
DETROIT -- From meet-and-greets to on-field clinics, Play Ball Weekend is a chance for boys and girls to get an up-close look at some of their favorite players. Detroit will host 15 events/attractions Thursday through Sunday, all centered on bringing baseball to young kids and families.
The second annual Play Ball Weekend features a variety of youth engagement activities by nearly 200 Major League and Minor League clubs to highlight the fun of youth baseball and softball. It is a complementary program of the Play Ball initiative, designed by MLB to celebrate youth baseball and softball participation. MLB has provided clubs with more than 300,000 youth plastic bat and ball sets to distribute in both ballparks and at community events.
On Friday, the Tigers hosted a kids-only press conference with two youth baseball teams as one of several events over the weekend. The press conference featured Tigers pitchers Blaine Hardy and Shane Greene, as well as utility man Andrew Romine, who answered questions from an audience of almost 40 young ballplayers. Questions to the pros ranged from how they strengthened their arms and found inspiration for baseball, to their favorite school subject and U.S. president.
"It's inspiring to the little kids who might want to play in the big leagues one day," said Tigers Kids Club member Sarah Larson, 13, who hosted the press conference. "Because then they have the Major League players who once were little kids, so they're talking about their experiences and stuff."
Hardy admitted that if he'd been one of the kids, with an opportunity to ask MLB players whatever he wanted, his question would pertain more relevant to life than simply to baseball.
"Because obviously you want to be exactly like them," Hardy said. "What do you eat? What do you do when you're not at the field? What do you do for fun? Stuff like that."
Many MLB clubs are hosting skills and physical fitness clinics as well as surprise "takeovers" of youth baseball and softball games or practices featuring appearances by Major League players, alumni, mascots, public address announcers and more. Activities will include pregame meet-and-greets and catches with players, ceremonial first pitches, public address duties, lineup card exchanges, taking the field with players, postgame running the bases and more. Major League players, coaches and managers will wear Play Ball Weekend patches during the weekend's games, and players on home clubs will wear custom T-shirts during batting practice on the date of their club's activations.
On Saturday, Detroit hosted a community clinic with strength and conditioning coach Yousef Zamat and other members of the coaching staff. The clinic included three 15-minute rotations of throwing, hitting and fielding for members of a local youth baseball league. That gave way to an on-field clinic open to all fans, where more than 100 kids and parents took to the outfield for teaching sessions with Tigers players and coaches.
Other Play Ball Weekend events featured at Comerica Park:
• On Sunday, six youth ballplayers and their parents will get a chance to play catch in the Comerica Park outfield. Then nine kids will take the field and participate in a hat exchange with current Tigers players.
• To begin Sunday's game, one kid will be picked to be the "Play Ball" announcer prior to the first pitch.
Jordan Horrobin is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.