Rangers outfielder tours facilty, holds Q&A with players and coaches
COMPTON, Calif. -- Usually after a Friday night game, a ballplayer visiting from another city will spend his Saturday relaxing at the team hotel and biding his time before going to the ballpark for an evening game.
Texas Rangers rookie outfielder Michael Choice had other plans Saturday when he drove down the freeway from Anaheim to visit the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy.
"I had heard about this place and seen it on TV when the Urban Invitational was played here, but I had never had a chance to visit it," said Choice, the native of Arlington, who fulfilled a boyhood dream of playing for his hometown Rangers. "I would have liked to have a big leaguer come around and talk to any of the teams I played for when I was young and I jumped on the opportunity to impact these kids out here."
Choice was given a personal tour of the eight-year-old facility by its director, former Major League outfielder Don Buford. Choice was very impressed with both the academy and the players and coaches that share in his love of baseball.
"It was unbelievable," said Choice. "These kids have great resources at their hands, and if they just take advantage of them, the sky is the limit for them. I played in a lot of Minor League cities that didn't have facilities this nice."
After the tour, Choice did an impromptu Q&A with 30 youth players and coaches and for 30 minutes answered a dozen questions about baseball. One about preparing for each game elicited a very thoughtful response.
"I never want to look back and say that I didn't give it my best," Choice said. "If I had a rough game, or a game that I could have done better, I'll look back and say 'Did I take my reads in the outfield in BP today, or did I slack off? Was I just swinging in BP or was I working on my swing?' It really makes a difference how you practice and how it translates on the field."
"It's a tremendous asset to the academy and to Major League Baseball to have Michael come out," said Buford, who had his photo taken with the young outfielder and said to him, 'We left fielders have to stick together.'
"He's representing not only Major League Baseball, but himself too and giving us a little bit of the background of what he went through. I can see the eyes of the kids getting bigger as he expressed that we are working and teaching them."
Other current players, including the Dodgers Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig, have visited the Compton academy over the past year and Major League players have learned if they come by to talk baseball, there will always be a captive and appreciative group of young players ready to listen.
Ben Platt is a National Correspondent for MLB.com.