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Yanks legends host clinic, BBQ for London kids

@BryanHoch
June 27, 2019

LONDON -- As Major League Baseball lands overseas for this weekend's London Series, the Yankees gave an All-Star experience to a group of local youth players, capping their memorable afternoon with a gift that should leave a legacy long after these upcoming two games are complete. Hall of Famers Reggie

LONDON -- As Major League Baseball lands overseas for this weekend's London Series, the Yankees gave an All-Star experience to a group of local youth players, capping their memorable afternoon with a gift that should leave a legacy long after these upcoming two games are complete.

Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Mariano Rivera were joined by former Yankees stars Carlos Beltran, Hideki Matsui, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher on Thursday, hosting a clinic and barbecue for 104 players in conjunction with the London Meteorites Baseball and Softball Club.

Commissioner Rob Manfred was on hand for the festivities at Finsbury Park, joined by Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and several high-ranking members of the organization's brass.

"I can actually take the vast majority of the credit for this one, I think," Steinbrenner said. "Me and my sisters and family, we wanted to do something like we always do out in the community. Ideally, we wanted that to have to do with baseball. This is London, England, and that's not always easy to find."

The Yankees' associates at Manchester City FC recommended the Meteorites (abbreviated as Mets), and the club reached out several months ago to start discussions that led to what took place Thursday on a former cricket ground.

Advised by the Yankees alumni, the players fielded grounders and fly balls, practiced baserunning and throwing, then had the opportunity to show off their swings in the batting cages under one-on-one instruction from the likes of Beltran, Jackson and A-Rod.

"It's a unique opportunity," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "I think we're all pretty excited to be here and to be a part of this event. It's new, it's different. There's obviously the hope that there's a lot of upside that can come from something like this for our great sport."

John Ferlazzo, a New Yorker and Yankees fan who moved to England in 2015, serves as the chairman of the Meteorites. He said that Thursday's event and the Yankees-Red Sox games should continue to elevate British interest in youth baseball, especially in the central London area.

"It's much higher than people think," Ferlazzo said. "Baseball is very big around Europe. We have competitive Great Britain national teams here. There are 60 Little League baseball clubs in the U.K. I think the numbers go up and down in the London area because of the ex-pat community coming and going. Our numbers have been pretty steady; we go from 120 to 140 kids every year."

As the festivities concluded, Yankees manager Aaron Boone grabbed a microphone and addressed the assembled players.

"I've never been here, but you see that baseball does have a universal language," Boone said. "It connects people. To see people out here, whatever level of experience they have in the game, they share a passion for it. It's connecting with a younger generation in a different place."

Standing in front of a large truck, Boone gestured for workers to reveal what was hidden behind a large canvas: boxes and boxes of new baseball equipment, to be used by this and future generations of aspiring athletes in the United Kingdom.

"This is what we're here this week to do: promote the game of baseball and find people who love it as much as we do," Steinbrenner said. "We think we have the greatest game in the world."

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.