COMPTON, Calif. -- Major League Baseball is making a concerted effort for its star players to visit one of their Urban Youth Academies. In February Dodger superstar Yasiel Puig spent time with the kids at the Compton academy. Earlier this month Rangers rookie outfielder, Michael Choice, paid the academy a visit.
On Saturday, 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner David Price came over from Anaheim, where the Rays are playing the Angels, to see the facility and talk with the children.
"It's always great to see the kids," said Price. "There's a lot of different things they could be doing right now and they chose baseball and are working on their baseball skills. It's good to see these kids and all different ages out here and also seeing the girls playing softball. It's good to see their passion for the game at a young age and to see them out here practicing."
Price got a personal tour of the academy with its director, former MLB outfielder Don Buford. Price was very impressed, not only with the facility, but with everything the place had to offer for the kids.
"This is probably one of the nicest academies I've been to," said the Tennessee native and three-time All-Star. "I haven't really seen something like this. It has all the fields, the locker rooms, the concession stand, meeting rooms, study rooms. They have everything for the kids and it's very nice."
Buford and his staff first took Price to the academy's back field where over a dozen girls were practicing softball. The 28-year-old pitcher was blown away by the thoughtful and intelligent questions the girls asked him. "These are some of the best questions I've fielded in a while," said Price to the young ladies.
"They asked some outstanding questions," Buford said. "They asked him how he got started and what age did he start and about his career and what was the most difficult time, and he took the time to answer them."
Next up were the boys, with more than 60 in attendance. Price used a microphone to talk baseball with them. When one boy handed him a ball and asked how he threw his various pitches, Price took his time and showed the large group every different pitch he has in his arsenal.
"That was really impressive," said Buford. "He showed the kids how he threw the fastball, curve, changeup and even the knuckleball and I think that was exciting for the kids to see and just to talk about it. It's really encouraging, but I think the biggest part about it was just the fact that he was here."
"It's really cool they're out there having fun," said Price. "That's all they're thinking of right now and that's the way it needs to be. You go out there, it's a game, it doesn't matter what age you are or the X amount of dollars that you are making -- it's still a game, and that's what you have to remember at the end of the day, because, if you lose [sight] of that, it becomes more of just a job and it's not as much fun."
With the recent success of player visits, Buford hopes they keep coming.
"The more PR we get about the academy and the programs that we have, the more enticing it is for kids to come here," said Buford. "Commissioner Selig and Frank Robinson, who oversees these academies knows that these kids are the future fans of Major League Baseball."
Ben Platt is a National Correspondent for MLB.com.