Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
The Official Site of the Kansas City Royals

news

Youth Baseball

Goldman Sachs plays Wiffle ball for DREAM

Investment bank employees raise awareness for non-profit org. focused on inner-city youth
MLB.com

NEW YORK -- For the third consecutive year, Goldman Sachs and the DREAM foundation collaborated to raise awareness and inspire inner-city youth by playing a friendly game of Wiffle ball on Friday at Battery Park City Ball Fields.

Goldman Sachs employees took a break from their daily office life full of banking and trading to suit up and play the most casual form of baseball to raise money for a serious cause. It wasn't your ordinary game of Wiffle ball -- Goldman Sachs employees created unique rules for a different spin.

NEW YORK -- For the third consecutive year, Goldman Sachs and the DREAM foundation collaborated to raise awareness and inspire inner-city youth by playing a friendly game of Wiffle ball on Friday at Battery Park City Ball Fields.

Goldman Sachs employees took a break from their daily office life full of banking and trading to suit up and play the most casual form of baseball to raise money for a serious cause. It wasn't your ordinary game of Wiffle ball -- Goldman Sachs employees created unique rules for a different spin.

"We have 120 teams today, it's mostly by division," Brian Levine, a Goldman Sachs organizer said. "We have eight fields and play three games, each game takes 10 minutes with a five minute break. You pitch to yourself and the opponent is in the field. Depending on where it goes in the cone, the DREAM folks are keeping score based on however many points you can get in that span. The top two teams for each hour advance to the tournament."

DREAM, originally Harlem RBI, was founded in 1991 and has since grown to serve over 2,200 youth per year. Seventeen years ago, a group of volunteers transformed an abandoned lot into two baseball diamonds for the youth in East Harlem. Over time, DREAM addressed the greater needs of the community, like low literacy and high school graduation rates, through summer and after-school activity. The DREAM Charter School opened in 2008 to further impact the kids and community of East Harlem. Now, DREAM uses a unique program model emphasizing team-based methods to prove a comprehensive, fulfilling experience for youth.

Though the game on Friday was casual, the hundreds of employees participating played competitively. Some jogged onto the field sporting personalized T-shirts from the film "The Sandlot," complete with "The Jet," "Ham" and "Yeah Yeah" name-branded jerseys. Former Major League baseball players Doc Gooden and John Flaherty stopped by to check out the game. DREAM representative Richard Berlin stood along the first-base line, watching the event grow from 200 participants in its first year, to nearly 1,000 in its third year.

"The larger cause here is about helping kids and educating them and as they grow into self-sufficient healthy citizens, then the ballplayer part just becomes a tool," Berlin said. "But it's very powerful and a great way to bring people together. Baseball is the best team game and DREAM, Major League Baseball and places like Goldman Sachs are all about the power of teams, so it's a good mix."

The idea for this unique blend of Goldman Sachs employees raising money for DREAM with a game of Wiffle ball began six years ago in London. In 2012, Goldman Sachs held a basketball and ping pong tournament to raise money for a charity called Greenhouse, where Olympic sprinter Michael Johnson served as master of ceremonies. Two years later, the idea shipped overseas as Goldman Sachs continued its partnership with DREAM for philanthropic work and initiatives at the senior leadership level.

Mike Casey, both an employee of Goldman Sachs and a volunteer coach for a DREAM team, said the event has grown larger than he could've imagined. Casey said coaching high schoolers in the organization is his way of giving back in a way that isn't monetary, but instead makes a direct impact on kids.

"They can be anywhere else, they don't have to do to this," Casey said of the youth in DREAM volunteering on Friday. "It shows they're sticking with the program, and the program is giving them resources that may not have been available to them before. Awareness for DREAM and what the program is doing in this very large city grows with this event.

"Hopefully DREAM can replicate this with other banks or broader institutions that are interested in helping out, because their mission is big. They're not just a baseball-softball program anymore. The fact that they have Charter Schools in the middle of the city, in Bronx, Harlem and New Jersey is truly incredible. It just continues to grow scale."

Deesha Thosar is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.

Ripken, Play Ball to build 10 youth ballparks

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- PLAY BALL Park had a special guest Tuesday morning who came to announce a big project that will impact thousands of kids around the country.

Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. stood at home plate on the kids' field, located just one block north of Nationals Park, to reveal that his foundation, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, is teaming up with Major League Baseball to build youth development parks in 10 MLB markets, thanks in part to a $5 million donation by Group One Thousand One.

WASHINGTON -- PLAY BALL Park had a special guest Tuesday morning who came to announce a big project that will impact thousands of kids around the country.

Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. stood at home plate on the kids' field, located just one block north of Nationals Park, to reveal that his foundation, the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, is teaming up with Major League Baseball to build youth development parks in 10 MLB markets, thanks in part to a $5 million donation by Group One Thousand One.

"I always loved the influence that I had on kids and I always loved the game of baseball," Ripken Jr. said. "So if you combine those two loves, you want to expose and give kids an experience where they love baseball the same way I did."

Ripken Jr. was presented the $5 million check from Dan Towriss, president and CEO of Group One Thousand One, which will help his foundation continue to raise more money for the new fields expected to come to Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the Washington, D.C. area first, before expanding to Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, South Florida, Detroit, Seattle and the New York City area.

"It's an awesome feeling," Ripken Jr. said. "Gives us a chance to think bigger. It gives us a chance to strategize on how to leverage that money to raise other money for fields. … Dan's corporation looks at us and says, 'OK, I want to invest $5 million in what you do,' so we'd love to use this as a model and continue to give value to corporations around, and by doing that, we'll be able to strategize, think bigger and help more kids."

Major League Baseball will have a presence at each of the new synthetic-turf youth development parks, as each field will support an MLB Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, which is MLB's initiative to provide baseball and softball league-play for underserved youth.

"Growth," said Tony Reagins, MLB's executive vice president of baseball and softball development. "And that's one of our key initiatives to get more kids playing the game. To have access to fields and safe places to play. Hopefully that translates into more kids playing the game. So positive steps forward, and to have an announcement like this today, it means a lot."

Since 2009, the Ripken Foundation has completed 78 parks across the country in 22 states and Washington, D.C., impacting over 280,000 kids annually and counting. The foundation's Youth Development Park Initiative is to create clean, safe places for kids to play on multipurpose synthetic-surface fields that promote healthy living in an outdoor recreational facility.

"When you look at the work the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation is doing around the country and to have an organization like Group One Thousand One and Dan Towriss and his group committing $5 million to parks around the country, that's exciting," Reagins said. "One of our biggest challenges, especially in inner cities, are places to play -- both baseball and softball. A commitment like this really speaks to, 'Hey, we're committed to providing these avenues for kids to play in safe environments.'

"The partnership with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation has been great for Major League Baseball and our RBI program."

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.

Compton wins inaugural Finch All-Star Classic

Youth softball team is honored at Nationals Park
Special to MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- There was an unmistakable vibe prior to Monday afternoon's championship game of the Jennie Finch All-Star Classic.

"We never sounded that loud in the dugout," said Jasmine Vasquez, an All-Star catcher for Major League Baseball's Compton Youth Academy in California. "It was cool to hear everyone come together. This morning, we were like, 'We have to put on our jams. We have to get ready.'"

WASHINGTON -- There was an unmistakable vibe prior to Monday afternoon's championship game of the Jennie Finch All-Star Classic.

"We never sounded that loud in the dugout," said Jasmine Vasquez, an All-Star catcher for Major League Baseball's Compton Youth Academy in California. "It was cool to hear everyone come together. This morning, we were like, 'We have to put on our jams. We have to get ready.'"

Compton scored a pair of early runs, and then broke the game open with a seven-run fifth inning to take the Finch Classic championship with a 9-3 victory over the host Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.

"A lot of people are like, 'They are from Compton. They can't do this. They can't play.' But here we are," said Maya DeSota, the third baseman for the team who delivered a pair of RBI singles. "We showed them."

As a result of their victory, Compton was honored on the field across town at Nationals Park prior to Monday night's Major League Baseball Home Run Derby. Finch presented them with the trophy.

"These girls just let loose," coach Bryana Simpson said. "I couldn't be more proud of them."

Simpson used to play for a team at the MLB Compton Youth Academy when she was 16.

"Now I am 27. I work here. I love it," she said. "They are just trying to get more kids to love the game of baseball and softball."

This was the first year for the Finch All-Star Classic. Eight All-Star teams from youth academies across the country participated as part of MLB's initiative to help grow the game. There were round-robin games at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy on the southeast side of town Friday and Saturday. The semifinals took place Sunday followed by Monday's championship game.

• Jennie Finch Classic highlights softball's rise

Commissioner Rob Manfred recently named Finch the softball ambassador for Major League Baseball.

"It's surreal to be honest. I have to pinch myself," Finch said as she watched Monday's title game unfold. "I am just so elated for these girls and the opportunity they have. Major League Baseball is stepping up to the plate in this enormous way. These girls have big dreams, and this is one of those events that hopefully can change their lives and encourage them to go after whatever they hope for."

Compton jumped ahead 2-0 in the first inning. Daisy Estavil led off with a single and then scored on a hit by DeSota. Two batters later, DeSota came across on a fielder's choice.

The game stayed scoreless over the next three innings, as starting pitchers Madison Griggs of Compton and Raye Thomas of Washington dueled.

Washington jumped on the board in the top of the fifth after Taylor Harris doubled to left field. She was replaced by a pinch-runner, Courtney Parker, who scored on a fielder's choice, cutting Compton's lead to 2-1.

But then Compton sent 13 batters to the plate in the bottom of the fifth to put the game out of reach.

Washington added two more in the top of the sixth on a two-run double down the right-field line by Ashley Fultz and then loaded the bases in the seventh but did not score.

Relief pitcher Mariah Leon came on to get the final three outs in the seventh for Compton.

Washington coach LeAnne Cardwell said of her team's fight to the finish, "This team has more heart than any team I have ever coached. They were amazing. I am so proud of them. They battled to the end."

Greg Swatek is a contributor to MLB.com.

Philly outslugs KC in Commissioner's Cup

Young players squared off Monday at Nationals Youth Baseball Academy
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- After the Philadelphia Youth Academy's 10-6 win in the Commissioner's Cup championship game Monday afternoon at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, the team huddled together for a photo.

After posing for about five shots, Steve Bandura, who runs the Philadelphia Youth Academy, wanted to savor the moment, so he asked the photographer to send him the picture.

WASHINGTON -- After the Philadelphia Youth Academy's 10-6 win in the Commissioner's Cup championship game Monday afternoon at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, the team huddled together for a photo.

After posing for about five shots, Steve Bandura, who runs the Philadelphia Youth Academy, wanted to savor the moment, so he asked the photographer to send him the picture.

Monday afternoon wasn't Philadelphia's last chance to pose for photos, though. With Philadelphia's victory over the Kansas City Youth Academy in seven innings, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred will present the squad with a championship trophy on the field at Nationals Park before the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday night, so Bandura is already brainstorming all the photos and videos his team will take.

• TUNE IN: T-Mobile Home Run Derby (8 ET, ESPN)

The inaugural Commissioner's Cup, which took place throughout this weekend, is a tournament made up of 10 teams for players ages 17 and under from MLB Youth Academies. Philadelphia and Kansas City finished round-robin play with the best records in the National League and American League, respectively, to face off in the title game.

"I've been involved with [Reviving Baseball In Inner Cities, another youth baseball program] since the early '90s, when we started," Bandura said. "This tournament has been one of the best I've been in, with the camaraderie. No trash talking or anything like that. They respect each other as ballplayers. With this much talent, you have to respect each other."

Bandura said the Commissioner's Cup featured more talent than some college showcases he's attended.

Kansas City broke out first Monday with a six-run fifth inning, during which teammates yelled, gave each other chest bumps and chanted "KC!" But Philadelphia responded with seven runs in the bottom of the fifth frame while performing less dramatic celebrations. Many of Philadelphia's batters reached base via walks, but shortstop Jared Sprague-Lott handed his team an 8-6 lead with a two-run single.

Many of Philadelphia's players have known each other through the Academy since they were about 10 years old, so they've come back from large deficits together before. Plus, the players have developed chemistry on the field over the years -- and by eating at some of their favorite restaurants in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia players came out to home plate and congratulated right-hander Jonathan Bautista in the seventh inning, after the 16-year-old hit the game's lone home run, which sailed more than 326 feet, to give Philly a 10-6 lead. Bautista, who said that was his first dinger of the tournament, is the youngest player on Philadelphia's roster.

"It definitely boosted my confidence," Bautista said. "When it went out, my emotions just took over. I was just pumped up and excited because that was just insurance runs."

Those emotions were on display when Bautista closed the seventh inning. He shook his head up-and-down to Cardi B's "I Like It" while warming up before recording the final three outs and pumping his fist.

Sprague-Lott's favorite part of the tournament has been visiting Washington and learning about its culture. The players' most exciting experience is still to come, though.

"Just being on the [Nationals Park] field, hearing everybody loud," Sprague-Lott said. "I'm super excited."

Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.

Manfred shares love of baseball with kids in DC

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- While visiting the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy on Saturday afternoon, Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to almost every team playing in the Commissioner's Cup and Jennie Finch Classic, tournaments for players ages 17 and under from MLB Youth Academies.

Players and coaches from every squad waited to shake Manfred's hand, chat for a few seconds and possibly take a photo with him. One of Manfred's final stops was with Jennie Finch's Aces softball team from New Jersey. Following their meeting with Manfred, many players wanted a picture with him. Only one player was brave enough to ask Manfred for a photo at first, but after she requested one, so did the rest of her teammates.

WASHINGTON -- While visiting the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy on Saturday afternoon, Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke to almost every team playing in the Commissioner's Cup and Jennie Finch Classic, tournaments for players ages 17 and under from MLB Youth Academies.

Players and coaches from every squad waited to shake Manfred's hand, chat for a few seconds and possibly take a photo with him. One of Manfred's final stops was with Jennie Finch's Aces softball team from New Jersey. Following their meeting with Manfred, many players wanted a picture with him. Only one player was brave enough to ask Manfred for a photo at first, but after she requested one, so did the rest of her teammates.

So Manfred encouraged every player to take a picture as he posed for four individual photos before opting for a group shot as the best way to commemorate the visit.

:: Complete All-Star Game coverage ::

Manfred spent about an hour at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, where tournament games were occurring. Manfred said it was his first stop since arriving in Washington on Saturday for MLB All-Star Game events in and around the D.C. area. The Midsummer Classic takes place Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

"I hope that being here, saying hello to these kids, just is a little, little piece of building their continuing interest in the game," Manfred said. "It's really important about days like this [that] kids come out and they see the opportunity that's embedded in our game."

Many heads turned at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy when Manfred arrived at about 3 p.m. ET. A group of reporters, cameramen and photographers followed Manfred around the facility as he spoke with coaches from every team, telling them, "We couldn't do it without [people] like you."

Manfred also interacted with the athletes. When speaking with the baseball players, one from the New Orleans Youth Academy said he's received interest from Ivy League schools. Manfred told him if he's not drafted to play baseball out of college, he should visit Manfred's office about possible opportunities.

Tweet from @PlayBall: These guys went all out at the All-Star Commissioner���s Cup! pic.twitter.com/suyZ79s871

Manfred also spoke with children who were watching the games. One kid was wearing a shirt with the word "baseball" on it. Manfred pointed to the word, saying: "That's a good thing."

"This is a weekend where we really try to celebrate the game," Manfred said. "And it's important that all of us involved in the game get out there and talk about our sport being the greatest sport in America."

Manfred spent some of his final moments at the facility watching a tight softball game between the Houston Youth Academy and the Nationals Youth Academy and taking photos with spectators before speaking with media on his way to a SUV.

Still, Manfred didn't jump into the car right when he reached it. The Philadelphia Youth Academy baseball team was entering the facility, and Manfred took a few minutes to greet the players.

"To me, this is the best part of our game," Manfred said. "Kids, fans from all over the country. Tons of diversity. Really athletic young men and women playing a game we all love."

Tweet from @PlayBall: The All-Star Jennie Finch Classic had all the action! pic.twitter.com/jAkpA4Fj2C

Saturday was the last day of round-robin play in the Jennie Finch Classic. The top four teams will compete in semifinal games Sunday morning for a chance to play in the championship game Monday afternoon at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.

Compton and Jennie Finch's Aces both finished round-robin play 4-0 and are the top seeds in the Jennie Finch Classic semifinals. Compton will face the No. 4 seed Rangers, while the ACES will play the No. 3 seed Nationals. Both games will be played at 9:30 a.m. ET Sunday at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.

The Commissioner's Cup will finish round-robin play Sunday before the first-place teams from the National League and American League face off in the championship game Monday afternoon at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.

Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington

MLB, Nats dedicate youth field in Maryland

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- A major component of every Legacy Project initiative during All-Star Week includes reintroducing youth baseball fields that have been renovated, restored and spruced up for area kids to play on. Not only now, but for generations to come.

Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals unveiled one of those fields on Saturday morning at Walker Mill Regional Park -- home of a brand new, refurbished "Nationals All-Star Field" in Maryland's Prince George's County.

WASHINGTON -- A major component of every Legacy Project initiative during All-Star Week includes reintroducing youth baseball fields that have been renovated, restored and spruced up for area kids to play on. Not only now, but for generations to come.

Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals unveiled one of those fields on Saturday morning at Walker Mill Regional Park -- home of a brand new, refurbished "Nationals All-Star Field" in Maryland's Prince George's County.

Players from Prince George's County Parks and Recreation Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), as well as several dignitaries from both the county and Major League Baseball were on hand for the grand opening.

:: Complete All-Star Game coverage ::

"This is important, and not just about sports," said Rushern L. Baker III, county executive for Prince George's County. "I know that's why the Nationals and Major League Baseball are investing in this field. It's not just about pitching and hitting. It's really about teaching the skills of life -- teamwork, how to win graciously and how to lose graciously. Life skills that will carry you throughout."

The field was fully renovated with improvements including field grading, upgrades to sod and ballfield mix, plus the additions of a brand new irrigation system, scoreboard, covered dugouts, bleachers with shade structures, batting cage and a storage shed.

Thirteen-year-old William "Willie" Palmer, a player from the Cheverly Boys & Girls Club, spoke eloquently about the great privilege he and his peers have in being able to play on a new, smooth field.

"I was here when my oldest brother played a high school game -- and now that I look at the field and remember it, it's very different," he said. "I feel like having this field will make it easier for kids to fall in love with the game.

"When you [play] on the backfield, it might give you a chance to make mistakes -- because of a hole or a rock. There's always [a chance] of some kids getting hurt. A field likes this makes me feel happy and energetic. I know this field will have no major holes or anything that can mess you up."

Former Nationals player Kevin Frandsen attended Saturday's dedication and echoed Palmer's sentiment about the advantages of playing on a brand new surface.

"When you're growing up, one of the toughest things to deal with is a ball off your chest, off your head," Frandsen said. "You come here and actually just play the game without worrying about anything. You look around and you say, 'Where was this when I was younger?' This is beautiful."

Upgrades to the field will allow for hosting a variety of youth-focused activities, including Play Ball events like the Scotts MLB Pitch, Hit & Run and Jr. Home Run Derby, as well as youth showcase and league games, and more. A secondary field was reconfigured and improved to allow different age groups to utilize the fields and expand youth baseball play overall.

The greater Washington, D.C., area is the most recent to benefit from the All-Star Legacy initiative, which began in 1997 and has since raised more than $85 million in charitable contributions. MLB and the Nationals have donated approximately $5 million through MLB Charities and the Nationals Dream Foundation -- which also supports the national partners of MLB, including Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Jackie Robinson Foundation and Stand Up to Cancer, among others.

Because of the field renovations at Walker Mill Regional Park, the Prince George's County Parks and Recreation Foundation and Prince George's County Department of Parks and Recreation will be able to promote baseball and healthy, active lifestyles to more than 3,000 kids.

"Major League Baseball made a long-term investment in our region," said Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, principal owner of the Nationals and chair of the Nationals Dream Foundation. "They told us what they want to accomplish [by] creating these legacy projects, and they've been amazing partners along the way. I hope you kids enjoy this field, because it was made with love."

While watching the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX on Tuesday, fans can submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2018 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote.

The 89th Midsummer Classic, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.

For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, visit AllStarGame.com and follow @MLB and @AllStarGame on social media.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Washington Nationals

16 sluggers participate in Jr. Home Run Derby

Climie wins 14U division, while Garcia captures 12U title
MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- One hundred and fifty-three home runs.

No, this number is not associated with Major League sluggers like J.D. Martinez, Jose Ramirez or Aaron Judge. This was the total number of blasts 16 participants in the third annual Jr. Home Run Derby launched at Nationals Park on Saturday morning.

WASHINGTON -- One hundred and fifty-three home runs.

No, this number is not associated with Major League sluggers like J.D. Martinez, Jose Ramirez or Aaron Judge. This was the total number of blasts 16 participants in the third annual Jr. Home Run Derby launched at Nationals Park on Saturday morning.

With a fence placed about 250 feet away from home plate, eight youngsters from both the 12U and 14U divisions took part in a quick batting practice session before stepping to the plate, ready to compete. Each batter received three warm-up pitches before having 20 attempts to hit as many home runs as they could.

:: Complete Home Run Derby coverage ::

For the 14U division, Cade Climie from Sugar Land, Texas, defeated Matthew Mebane of Hilton Head, S.C., in the finals. The only left-handed hitter in the competition, Esteban Garcia from Woodhaven, N.Y., took down Florida native Joshua Agriesti in the 12U championship round to bring home the title on his mother's birthday.

"I told her, 'Happy Birthday,' [after I finished]," Garcia said. "It's cool, because I kept telling her I was going to win. I ended up winning for her."

Garcia launched 10 homers in the first round and stopped after his championship-winning fifth home run in the middle of his final round. Climie put up the most homers in a single round, blasting 18 in his first round. Like Garcia, Climie stopped in his championship round after he hit the clinching 11th homer.

"[I prepared by] hitting every day," Climie said. "I do it almost every day after school and [during] the summer."

All of Saturday's participants qualified for the event by advancing through sectional and regional rounds throughout the country. But nothing compared to hitting in a Major League stadium.

"It shows me that I'm going to be here one day," Garcia said. "I know I'm going to be here one day."

Video: 12U Jr. Home Run Derby Winner: Esteban Garcia

"This is a culmination of the hard work that they've put in to get to this point," said Tony Reagins, MLB's executive vice president of baseball and softball development. "To have it on this stage and have it a part of All-Star [Week], it's a cool experience for these young guys and their families. I think it's something that we want to continue to do -- and do more [to] get kids participating."

The path to receiving a Jr. Home Run Derby trophy is not easy. According to Reagins, over 40,000 kids participated throughout the country -- which doubled the total from last year.

"It's great," Reagins said. "It just means there's more kids out there participating and becoming more aware of the program. That's the exciting part. So if you can get more kids participating, the [Jr. Home Run Derby] is pretty exciting. But hopefully ... they don't stop playing when they reach 13 or 14 years old and [these kids] continue to play and be a part of our game long term."

Video: 12U and 14U Jr. Home Run Derby winners

To recognize all of their hard work, both Climie and Garcia will be honored alongside their idols at the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.

"This is pretty crazy. I never thought I'd be here," Climie said. "[I'm looking forward to] seeing my name on the scoreboard when I walk on the field and everyone starts cheering."

:: Complete All-Star Game coverage ::

While watching the 2018 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX on Tuesday, fans can submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet with the 2018 All-Star Game MLB.com MVP Vote.

The 89th Midsummer Classic, at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., will be televised nationally by FOX Sports; in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS; and worldwide by partners in more than 180 countries. FOX Deportes will provide Spanish-language coverage in the United States, while ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide exclusive national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB Network, MLB.com and SiriusXM also will provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage.

For more information about MLB All-Star Week and to purchase tickets, visit AllStarGame.com and follow @MLB and @AllStarGame on social media.

Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.

Former Nats add smiles to Miracle League game

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Hits, high-fives and happy faces were prominently displayed in every corner of left field on Friday at Nationals Park, site of one of the best events Major League Baseball hosts as part of its annual All-Star festivities leading up to the 89th MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX. 

Kids of all ages participated in the Miracle League-Challenger Game, a matchup involving special needs kids that provided an opportunity to play baseball on the very field that the Major League All-Stars will occupy on Tuesday.

WASHINGTON -- Hits, high-fives and happy faces were prominently displayed in every corner of left field on Friday at Nationals Park, site of one of the best events Major League Baseball hosts as part of its annual All-Star festivities leading up to the 89th MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX. 

Kids of all ages participated in the Miracle League-Challenger Game, a matchup involving special needs kids that provided an opportunity to play baseball on the very field that the Major League All-Stars will occupy on Tuesday.

:: Complete All-Star Game coverage ::

This game pitted kids from the Miracle League vs. the Little League's Challenger Division. Every player had an at-bat and a chance to circle the bases, while mingling with several former Nationals players who were on hand to cheer on the kids.

"Baseball's for everyone," said former Nats pitcher Sean Burnett, one of several former players serving as All-Star ambassadors this week. "The Challenger League and the Miracle League create great opportunities for these kids to get on a baseball field and play like the pros do. To get these kids on an All-Star field is special."

In addition to Burnett, three other former Nats were also on hand to join in the fun: former infielder/outfielder Scott Hairston, who played for Washington from 2013-14; Kevin Frandsen, a nine-year Major League infielder who played for the Nats in '14; and pitcher John Lannan, who pitched for the Nats from 2007-12 as part of an eight-year career.

"Looking around and seeing these kids have fun, it's so much fun," Hairston said, adding that he wished his brother-in-law, who has cerebral palsy, was there to experience it, too. "It's a great time for everybody, to see all these happy people together."

The Nationals alums were assigned to different bases, giving high-fives to the participants as they worked their way from station to station.

"It's a great experience for both sides," Lannan said. "You can see these kids here today, they're smiling from ear to ear. This is a great experience for everybody involved."

Both the Miracle League and Little League Challenger Division cater to kids with special needs, with the goal to eliminate any barriers that would keep a child with disabilities from experiencing fun on a baseball field.

Video: Organizers and participants on Challenger Series

Major League Baseball, which hosts more than a dozen youth-centric events during All-Star Week, provided all participants in the Miracle League-Challenger Game with jerseys that had their names on their backs. The kids paraded onto the field, waved to their families in the stands, went through general stretching exercises and calisthenics with Screech the mascot and Teddy the Racing President -- and then it was game time.

The game lasted a little over an hour. The memories from the event will likely last a lifetime.

"It's very cool," said Jeremy Flug, founder of Baseball Fantasy Camp for Kids, which also provides baseball activities to special needs youth. "Anybody who has been to an adult fantasy camp will ask themselves, 'Why aren't we doing this for kids? And special needs kids, to give them this opportunity?' It's been a lot of fun. I couldn't be any happier with the energy and the turnout and the big smiles, and of course, the jerseys."

The game, Flug added, leveled the proverbial playing field for a day.

"There's a lot of takeaways," he said. "I get a lot of letters from parents and kids saying, 'That was really cool.' I'll take that any day of the week. That's baseball -- it brings a lot of smiles."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Jennie Finch Classic highlights softball's rise

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Eliza Crawford is a coach for the New Orleans Youth Academy. She grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and played softball at Cal State Fullerton -- areas where baseball and softball are popular.

Crawford and the New Orleans Youth Academy are participating in the Jennie Finch Classic leading up to the 89th MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX. The tournament takes place in Washington, D.C., and consists of eight teams of women ages 17 and under from MLB Youth Academies. The event is named after Olympic Gold Medal winner Jennie Finch, who is the MLB youth softball ambassador. Tournament participants will also attend All-Star Week events, including the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday night.

WASHINGTON -- Eliza Crawford is a coach for the New Orleans Youth Academy. She grew up in Long Beach, Calif., and played softball at Cal State Fullerton -- areas where baseball and softball are popular.

Crawford and the New Orleans Youth Academy are participating in the Jennie Finch Classic leading up to the 89th MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX. The tournament takes place in Washington, D.C., and consists of eight teams of women ages 17 and under from MLB Youth Academies. The event is named after Olympic Gold Medal winner Jennie Finch, who is the MLB youth softball ambassador. Tournament participants will also attend All-Star Week events, including the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday night.

:: Complete All-Star Game coverage ::

Crawford embarked on a new challenge this past year when she moved to New Orleans and recruited women to join the city's Youth Academy. None of New Orleans' eight surrounding colleges have softball programs, so women growing up in the area don't experience much exposure to the sport. Most women participate in basketball and volleyball, Crawford said.

The New Orleans Youth Academy, however, has provided opportunities and resources for women to learn and play softball since it opened in 2012. Over the past year and a half, the academy's membership has increased by 15 percent.

"A lot of people don't know what we have because of New Orleans and it's so small, so when they come to the facility, they're like, 'Oh wow, if I would've known about this years ago, this would've changed,'" said Crawford, who works in the softball division of MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program. "Just spreading the word basically, because as soon as word of mouth comes, the more trickles in."

Alexa Poche, a member of the New Orleans Youth Academy, was one of the lone athletes at her school playing softball. While Poche said football and basketball are the most popular sports in Louisiana, her father and brother played baseball, so she played with them before she began travel softball at about 7 years old.

While Crawford idolized softball players from an array of college programs in Southern California, Poche couldn't watch as much softball.

The nearest college softball programs from New Orleans are at Nicholls State University and Louisiana State University, both of which are about an hour and a half drive from the city. Poche said she attended LSU softball games with her dad growing up.

Poche looks up to players she's met through travel softball, such as USA Softball infielder Kelsey Stewart, who attended the University of Florida, Poche's dream school.

Hurricane Katrina also destroyed softball facilities and resources in 2005. Many families moved to Texas because of their living situations. But the New Orleans Youth Academy has served as a new softball facility.

"[The academy] was actually rebuilt after Katrina," Poche said. "That was actually the biggest upside for softball that we got that in return."

Earlier this year, New Orleans Youth Academy members participated in softball clinics run by Finch and A.J. Andrews, the first woman to receive a Rawlings Gold Glove Award in 2016. Plus, some of the academy's coaches, including Crawford, played Division I softball.

Crawford's goal is to involve more talented softball players, like Finch and Andrews, to increase the sport's interest and participation in New Orleans.

"It's easier for [youth players] to see like, 'OK, this is possible for me. I can do it,'" Crawford said of learning from veterans. "It gives them really something to motivate them and something to look forward to."

Softball
Game 1 at GWU - Compton 12, Houston 2
Game 2 at GWU - Phillies 13, Houston 0
Game 3 at GWU - Rangers 4 NOLA 1

Game 1 at Nats Academy - Nationals 3, NOLA 2
Game 2 at Nats Academy - Jennie's Aces 6, Rangers 1
Game 3 at Nats Academy - Compton 6, Cincinnati 1
Game 4 at Nats Academy - Jennie's Aces 22, Kansas City 0
Game 5 at Nats Academy - Phillies 12, Cincinnati 8
Game 6 at Nats Academy -- Nationals 19, Kansas City 1

Records
Aces 2-0
Compton 2-0
Phillies 2-0
Nationals 2-0
Rangers 1-1
Houston 0-2
NOLA 0-2
Cincinnati 0-2
Kansas City 0-2

Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington

Graves offers advice at Marlins PLAY event

Rookie works with kids as part of youth baseball campaign
MLB.com

MIAMI -- "Stay active," "eat right" and "make sound life decisions" were some of the messages Marlins right-hander Brett Graves and members of Miami's athletic training staff delivered to youth athletes on Friday during a National PLAY Campaign event at Marlins Park.

"As they prepare to get into the stages of life where they're going to have to make difficult decisions, we're prepping them to be able to make the right decisions," Graves said. "Educating them on performance-enhancing drugs and why we don't use them, and why they're illegal. And we got to have some fun. We played kickball. I was pitching in one of them the whole time."

View Full Game Coverage

MIAMI -- "Stay active," "eat right" and "make sound life decisions" were some of the messages Marlins right-hander Brett Graves and members of Miami's athletic training staff delivered to youth athletes on Friday during a National PLAY Campaign event at Marlins Park.

"As they prepare to get into the stages of life where they're going to have to make difficult decisions, we're prepping them to be able to make the right decisions," Graves said. "Educating them on performance-enhancing drugs and why we don't use them, and why they're illegal. And we got to have some fun. We played kickball. I was pitching in one of them the whole time."

View Full Game Coverage

Young athletes, separated into two groups, got to experience a morning at Marlins Park, interacting with rookie pitcher Graves and listening to advice from three members of the Marlins' athletic training staff -- head athletic trainer Dustin Luepker and assistant trainers Mike Kozak and Gene Basham.

The PLAY campaign, which will host events in all 30 Major League ballparks this year, strives to educate America's youth about the importance of leading healthy and active lives, as well as disability inclusion.

PLAY is a national public awareness campaign of the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS). Friday's event, and all other PLAY campaign events in 2018, are made possible by the generous support and participation of Major League Baseball Charities, the Taylor Hooton Foundation, the Henry Schein Cares Foundation and the Ruderman Family Foundation.

"Getting outside and playing and just being like a kid," Luepker said. "Today we showed them some proper stretching techniques. And we ran around and played a kickball game."

Participants were divided into groups and rotated through a series of stations on the field at Marlins Park. These stations touched upon healthy eating, injury prevention, strength and conditioning and education about the dangers of illegal performance and appearance-enhancing drugs.

"It's just healthy lifestyles," Luepker said. "Achieving healthy lifestyles through exercise, eating right. And then our main focus, through the Taylor Hooton Foundation, is a drug-free sport. We primarily talked about not using steroids."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.

Miami Marlins, Brett Graves

'Sandlot' cast kicks off All-Star Week festivities

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- Twenty-five years later, Patrick Renna understands the drill.

Regardless of how many great lines came out of the 1993 hit movie "The Sandlot," and how many memorable characters fans of that film still hold dear, no single moment from the cult-favorite coming-of-age baseball tale will ever top the famous utterance from Renna's character, Hamilton "Ham" Porter.

WASHINGTON -- Twenty-five years later, Patrick Renna understands the drill.

Regardless of how many great lines came out of the 1993 hit movie "The Sandlot," and how many memorable characters fans of that film still hold dear, no single moment from the cult-favorite coming-of-age baseball tale will ever top the famous utterance from Renna's character, Hamilton "Ham" Porter.

So, when asked what stands out more than anything else from the movie, Renna just blurts it out.

"You're killing me, Smalls," the distinctive-looking redhead, now 39 years old, says with a grin.

The kids from "The Sandlot" are all grown up now. They're also more visible than they've been since the movie hit theaters, and for good reason -- the film, and its cast, are celebrating the 25th anniversary of its release.

With Major League Baseball incorporating more kid-friendly events than ever before during its annual All-Star Game festivities, it was only fitting that the cast from one of the most famous family-friendly baseball movies would be present to welcome the start of All-Star Week in Washington, D.C.

Seven actors from "The Sandlot," plus director David Mickey Evans, attended the opening ceremony of PLAY BALL Park on Thursday, engaging the crowd in a Q&A about some of their best memories from shooting the film.

Video: Celebs on Play Ball Park opening in D.C.

Their recollections played like a soundtrack to the perfect baseball-centric childhood.

"It felt like a summer camp, a baseball summer camp," said Tom Guiry, who played Scotty Smalls. "It was probably one of the best summers of my childhood. It was a lot of fun. I think it comes out in the movie -- we all connected, we all had a friendship. It captured that in film, which was really cool."

"The Sandlot" was filmed in Utah, but the kids first all met in Los Angeles. Instant friendships were formed.

"We just played baseball together for a couple weeks -- that's how we got to know each other," Renna said. "Those were our first memories of each other, just hitting the ball around, playing baseball for a couple weeks at the beginning of summer, and becoming buddies."

The best part of the summer of filming? The whole thing said Shane Obedzinski, who played Tommy "Repeat" Timmons.

"You met your best friends and you got to play baseball all summer and film a great movie," he said, adding that they played a lot of Super Nintendo in their free time.

The appearance by the cast, which was followed by a special screening of the movie, highlighted a fun night of baseball at PLAY BALL Park, which will be open all day, every day, leading up to the All-Star Game at Nationals Park on Tuesday.

Various programming partners will be on-hand at PLAY BALL Park to provide fun, engaging and educational activities for youth baseball and softball players -- all in the backdrop of the Midsummer Classic.

Several key figures involved in All-Star Week attended the opening ceremony, including players who will compete in the Commissioner's Cup and Jennie Finch Classic this weekend. The two tournaments, comprised of teams from MLB Youth Academies from all over the country, are a new addition to All-Star festivities this year.

Also on hand at Thursday's ceremony was Hall of Fame electee Jack Morris, who spoke of the importance of kids developing a love for baseball at a young age, and sticking with it.

"I hope the kids like it, that their parents bring them out here and they can run around and play ball," Morris said. "Baseball's really making a statement by getting kids involved in the game. This ignites their curiosity, and they go home and play baseball. Maybe one of those kids that came to a PLAY BALL Park at an All-Star Game will get to the big leagues and think, 'That really got me going.'"

However the method, the point is, simply, to just Play Ball.

It worked on "The Sandlot" kids, after all.

"Obviously, Major League Baseball players are the best in the world," Renna said. "But it's always a sport that you don't have to be 6-foot-5, you don't have to be a seven-footer, you don't have to be 300 pounds. It really is a sport that anyone can excel at.

"When you go to a baseball game, and it's a boundless sport, but it's also so much more. You see fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. It's special."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.

Nats open All-Star Pavilion at inspiring Academy

MLB.com

WASHINGTON -- DaShall House Speed often lives vicariously through her son, Langston Speed, because of his opportunities by way of the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.

House Speed felt especially jealous of her son last year, when Anthony Rendon called Langston by his first name during the Nationals' All-Star logo reveal at Nationals Park, or in 2016, when Langston came home thrilled after playing ball with Rendon, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth at the Academy.

WASHINGTON -- DaShall House Speed often lives vicariously through her son, Langston Speed, because of his opportunities by way of the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.

House Speed felt especially jealous of her son last year, when Anthony Rendon called Langston by his first name during the Nationals' All-Star logo reveal at Nationals Park, or in 2016, when Langston came home thrilled after playing ball with Rendon, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth at the Academy.

"Langston doesn't get excited about much," House Speed said. "That is probably hands down his best experience he'll never forget."

Langston, 12, spoke about his experiences over his four years with the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy during the reveal for an All-Star Pavilion at the Academy on Wednesday afternoon.

:: Complete All-Star Game coverage ::

The 2,880-square-foot pavilion includes an open-air space that covers four short-throw batting cages. The cages are covered and will allow youngsters to practice in an open and airy environment. The pavilion also features an outdoor gathering area with picnic tables for the Academy's farmers' market and community use.

The Nationals Youth Baseball Academy offers free, year-round baseball and softball instruction, as well as educational and sports-related vocational programing, such as SAT/ACT classes, broadcasting and homework aid. The Academy's mission, as listed on its website, is "to use the sports of baseball and softball as vehicles to foster positive character development, academic achievement and improved health among youth from underserved communities in Washington, D.C."

There are also MLB Academies in Cincinnati, Compton (Calif.), Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Gurabo (Puerto Rico).

"This place has been very unique to me," Langston said in front of the pavilion. "Because one, I got to learn the sport of baseball and learn how to love the sport of baseball. Two, I got to do it with my friends, who became my best friends, who became my teammates. And three, I learned how to be successful and be a scholar athlete and be a hard worker on and off the field."

Baseball has been Langston's favorite sport since he was 3, but he didn't have the resources to develop and learn from coaches until he joined the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy at its opening in 2014. Langston has played with multiple club teams, and all of them meet at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, since it features multiple fields and classrooms, which makes travel easier.

In addition to meeting Nationals players, Langston has toured Nationals Park, watched batting practice from the field and high-fived players as they ran onto the field before a game.

"It's probably been the best thing that's ever happened to him," House Speed said.

As Langston delivered his speech, his teammates from "Team Hustle" watched with smiles from the back of the small crowd. They received bags from the Nationals with merchandise, including bobbleheads from the 2017 season.

At the end of his 100-second address, Langston yelled "Let's play ball!" About five minutes later, even as Nationals and MLB officials still roamed the facility, Langston and his teammates were throwing and hitting in the new pavilion.

Kyle Melnick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.

Washington Nationals

Bucs encourage kids to be healthy at PLAY event

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- Late Tuesday morning at PNC Park, one group of children fielded balls in center field and jumped into the padded wall. In right field, another group tested their speed and agility along the warning track. In left field, they ran relays. In the bullpen, they exercised with Pirates physical therapist Kevin "Otis" Fitzgerald.

The Pirates played host to more than 60 kids on Tuesday as part of the national PLAY campaign, emphasizing the importance of children getting outside and living a healthy lifestyle. The Pirates' training staff ran stations with different activities, sports dietician Tavis Piattoly spoke about the benefits of a healthy diet and Pittsburgh pitcher Jameson Taillon answered questions and signed autographs after advising the children to be mindful of what they eat and drink.

PITTSBURGH -- Late Tuesday morning at PNC Park, one group of children fielded balls in center field and jumped into the padded wall. In right field, another group tested their speed and agility along the warning track. In left field, they ran relays. In the bullpen, they exercised with Pirates physical therapist Kevin "Otis" Fitzgerald.

The Pirates played host to more than 60 kids on Tuesday as part of the national PLAY campaign, emphasizing the importance of children getting outside and living a healthy lifestyle. The Pirates' training staff ran stations with different activities, sports dietician Tavis Piattoly spoke about the benefits of a healthy diet and Pittsburgh pitcher Jameson Taillon answered questions and signed autographs after advising the children to be mindful of what they eat and drink.

"It's just inspiring kids to live a healthy lifestyle, watch what they put in their bodies," said Taillon, part of the Taylor Hooton Foundation's MLB Advisory Board. "These kids are young, but as they get older, they're going to have tough decisions about what they're putting in their bodies and who they're listening to and who they trust with regards to that. You just encourage them to live a healthy, natural lifestyle and watch what you put in your body."

Tweet from @JTaillon19: It was an honor sharing a message on behalf of @TheTHF foundation this morning at the field! It���s cool to care about what you put in your bodies kids! pic.twitter.com/osod3AWGgh

The Promoting a Lifetime of Activity for Youth (PLAY) campaign was created in 2004 by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society (PBATS) to raise awareness about children's health issues and the obesity epidemic in the United States. PLAY has conducted more than 300 events inside all 30 MLB ballparks, including PNC Park.

"It's a great opportunity to share our office with kids from the city of Pittsburgh," Pirates director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk said. "So energetic. I've been doing this for about 13 years in Major League Baseball, and this is probably one of the most energetic groups that we've had. Very engaged, wanting to learn, wanting to learn about their bodies and how they can move on a baseball field."

The entire staff got involved. Tomczyk tossed balls in center field as children simulated making plays at the wall. Assistant athletic trainer Ben Potenziano supervised the running drills in left. Head athletic trainer Bryan Housand set up ladder drills in right. And Fitzgerald ran what Tomczyk called "Body by Otis" in the bullpen.

"This has been an unbelievable opportunity to share our knowledge back with the community," Tomczyk said. "What I hope to do is get them outside. It's no secret that with technology, and there's so many options for our youth and kids to stay inside and stay engaged inside, I think we lose a little bit of that. But this should be a top option.

"Hopefully this will resonate them and see that you don't have to be a Major Leaguer to be physically active."

Last year, PBATS partnered with the Ruderman Family Foundation and National Down Syndrome Society to further the PLAY campaign's outreach. On Tuesday, children from the National Down Syndrome Society took part in what Tomczyk called "truly an all-inclusive event."

With the whole group gathered in center field, Taillon spoke from personal experience about the value of nutrition. The right-hander began working with a nutritionist in 2014 and felt that was when his career took off.

"I've been all over the map, and I feel like I've found that happy medium, that happy lifestyle," Taillon said.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Marlins host Elite Development Invitational

Miami's front-office female personnel meet with HS softball players
MLB.com

MIAMI -- A panel of female representatives of the Miami Marlins front office hosted the Elite Development Invitational at Marlins Park on Monday. Participants took part in a speed-dating-style roundtable, chatting with five different Marlins personnel, in 20-minute intervals, about their careers.

This unique event is part of a one-week program, operated by Major League Baseball and USA Softball based in Historic Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Fla., and it's geared toward providing elite training and instruction opportunities to approximately 90 high school softball players, ages 18 and under.

MIAMI -- A panel of female representatives of the Miami Marlins front office hosted the Elite Development Invitational at Marlins Park on Monday. Participants took part in a speed-dating-style roundtable, chatting with five different Marlins personnel, in 20-minute intervals, about their careers.

This unique event is part of a one-week program, operated by Major League Baseball and USA Softball based in Historic Dodgertown, Vero Beach, Fla., and it's geared toward providing elite training and instruction opportunities to approximately 90 high school softball players, ages 18 and under.

"The idea is to let these young ladies know that while we want to invest in them as athletes and that we value them as athletes, we really value the fact that they are intellectual young ladies," said Renee Tirado, vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer of Major League Baseball. "We legitimately believe that some of these ladies in this room can be potential leaders for our organization down the line for some of our clubs. We just want to show them the pathway to that."

Angela Smith, senior director of community outreach for the Marlins, stressed the significance of giving these young women an incredible opportunity to pick the brains of several successful women currently working in a variety of jobs that these high schoolers may pursue down the road.

"I think it's really important for us to be able to come out and share our experiences and our career paths with these young women," Smith said. "Give them some pointers of what to think about and different things that they can do to discern what they want to do with their lives and ways they can achieve it."

Other speakers at the event proudly represented a wide variety of fields, including journalism, business communications, finance and marketing.

Elisa Padilla, senior vice president of marketing and community relations with the Marlins, accentuated the effect of an event like this, setting women on a path to no longer be the minority working in sports.

"I think that we're going to break the glass ceiling and that the young women that we saw today will one day be running a sports team," Padilla said. "I hope to see a lot more women in powerful positions. That's my hope. And not only women, but women of color … To this day, and I've been in the industry for 25 years, I'm probably just one of two women in the board room. So, my hope is just a little more balance."

To Tirado, the biggest takeaway of the afternoon was to emphasize to the group of young women that although athletics are important, they should all focus on a plan for their future.

"Often times they are so focused on the athletics and being the superstar athlete, which is great, but we know there's a timestamp on that," she said. "What are you going to do after that? We're just trying to let them know that when the 'after that' comes, come here first, you have an opportunity for you here."

The messages delivered by the Marlins' personnel resonated particularly with Adison Cooper, of New Orleans, who said after the event that she had learned about balancing her priorities and planning for her future as she moves closer to college.

"I learned that I need to have something other than softball that I have a passion for," Cooper said. "Something that I will be able to do in life, so that I will be able to be a successful adult. I also learned that in college, I need to stay on my studies so that everything I do will make me become who I want to be and who I aspire to be."

Max Goodman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Miami. Follow him on Twitter @Max_Goodman97.

Miami Marlins

Softball players train, share tips at EDI

Special to MLB.com

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Angie Ordonez didn't choose to play softball for the then-Harlem RBI program simply because she wanted to become the best player in New York City.

"I came to RBI because my mom just needed somewhere to put me," said Ordonez, a longtime member of the now-Harlem Dream. "It was a blessing, because they taught me everything, taught me to have heart for the game. … I thank [my coach] all the time for it."

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Angie Ordonez didn't choose to play softball for the then-Harlem RBI program simply because she wanted to become the best player in New York City.

"I came to RBI because my mom just needed somewhere to put me," said Ordonez, a longtime member of the now-Harlem Dream. "It was a blessing, because they taught me everything, taught me to have heart for the game. … I thank [my coach] all the time for it."

Ordonez is one of over 90 softball players -- many of whom play for Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) programs or Major League teams' youth academies -- who are at Historic Dodgertown for the five-day Elite Development Invitational. The program's third day was spent training and sharing tips with one another at Historic Dodgertown.

Rhode Island's Mackenzie Palmer was among the girls in awe of the opportunity to attend the EDI. Palmer is only one of two players from the Ocean State who is in Vero Beach this weekend.

"I'm going to be here with kids from Alaska, California, Georgia, everywhere," Palmer said. "It was really, really cool [to be picked]. … I've learned so much so far and I'm really excited to tell [my teammates] what I've learned."

The players have also been treated to advice from the pros, learning from Olympian Jennie Finch on Thursday. Longtime MLB outfielder Gary Matthews Jr. was also in attendance Sunday to watch his daughter, Kenedie, participate in the program.

Players will travel to Miami on Monday to speak with members of the Marlins' organization before watching the Brewers-Marlins game.

Recent battles with inclement weather have created opportunities to make memories off the field, whether it's going over strategies in a classroom or learning of Jackie Robinson's heroics in the meeting room named for the Hall of Fame second baseman.

"I think I've learned a lot about family and being bonded with your teammates," said Kelli-Anne Mendez, a rising high school senior from Indiana. "It just teaches us to be helpful with everyone. Of course, we learn the game, but I like to think of this more as family."

Added Palmer, who has been taking the weekend to improve her catching: "I've just learned how confidence is so important. And I've learned how to get in touch with that confidence, how to speak with my fielders."

Though their time in Vero Beach is going by quickly, players in attendance realize they can bring valuable lessons home with them. Some will focus on "cheat codes" and tricks for the field, but others have learned what makes a team work off the field.

Years after her first at-bat, Ordonez reflected on a journey that's taken her from Harlem to the fields of Dodgertown.

"When I first started, Harlem really wasn't known for being a good neighborhood," Ordonez said. "It was just something [where] they were taking kids in, keeping them safe, trying to guide them to the right direction and as it keeps growing, we're getting more kids. I've been here since the jump, and I want them to cherish it.

"Not every kid today gets this opportunity," Ordonez added, "and I am this person today because a lot of lessons they taught me."

Jake Elman is a contributor to MLB.com.