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Hit and Run Baseball has supporter in Ripken

Hall of Famer lends expertise to MLB's new youth initative
MLB.com

From the birth of the famously intimidating "violin" stance to a strong will for success, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. is ready to pass down everything he knows about baseball to help the younger generation develop into successful athletes.

Major League Baseball and USA Baseball announced "Hit and Run Baseball" on Monday, a new format of baseball that makes efforts with more game action and skill development at the local levels. It helps maintain a focus on pitcher arm health by reducing the number of pitches per at-bat, increasing the frequency of balls in play and giving teams bonuses for hitting certain pace-of-play goals. It is in line with the overall Play Ball initiative's message that there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to play baseball.

From the birth of the famously intimidating "violin" stance to a strong will for success, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. is ready to pass down everything he knows about baseball to help the younger generation develop into successful athletes.

Major League Baseball and USA Baseball announced "Hit and Run Baseball" on Monday, a new format of baseball that makes efforts with more game action and skill development at the local levels. It helps maintain a focus on pitcher arm health by reducing the number of pitches per at-bat, increasing the frequency of balls in play and giving teams bonuses for hitting certain pace-of-play goals. It is in line with the overall Play Ball initiative's message that there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to play baseball.

More on Hit and Run Baseball

Ripken, one of the advisors on the leadership committee for Hit and Run and a major player in the initiative going forward, describes the format as a modified version of baseball with a focus on 8 -to 10-year-olds. He said it allows youth players to gain flexibility on the field and recognize their unique individual assets, instead of adapting to the same skill set as Major League Baseball at an age when they're not necessarily developed to imitate that style or level of play.

"To me, it's a great teaching tool, it's a great developing tool and it really gets the kids more into playing all facets of the game as opposed to just one or two," Ripken said. "If you can't hit at 8 [years old], and all of a sudden, you're swinging the bat and you're striking out and you're going back and sitting on the bench, you don't get to play. So by inserting baserunners and different counts, you're encouraging the action ball."

In Ripken's 21 seasons with the Orioles, he accumulated 3,184 hits and 1,695 RBIs, earned two MVP Awards and was selected to 19 All-Star Games. Iron Man cruised by Lou Gehrig and demolished the record for most consecutive games played with 2,632. Ripken holds authority over that record by his successful transition from shortstop to third base later in his career. He played 675 games at the hot corner and received three All-Star nods for the position. Now he wants kids to gain that same confidence by exposing themselves to different roles.

One of the tenets in the Hit and Run initiative is more engagement with youth players by introducing diverse game situations, giving players the freedom to play different defensive positions and providing more opportunities to participate defensively. Ripken said this allows kids to remove the pressure of playing at an "important position," and instead take every role in stride.

"My advice to parents all the time and even to little kids is, play different positions when you're young," Ripken said. "Try them out, see if you like them. Catching is a difficult position, and sometimes until you figure it out and you put the stuff on, you might not like it. You have to give something a try to kind of expose it."

Ripken thinks the program will work because this modified version of baseball creates a love for the game simply by being more interactive. His role in the initiative has been in helping MLB with ideas. And now, it's communicating those ideas to a national audience.

"I think nowadays, kids are put into an organized structured program and they don't have the ability to create those repetitions necessary to learn," Ripken said. "So this format is an organized version of being a little unorganized. It's making the game move, to keep the kid's attention, but not to speed up the game. Not to train future athletes how to play the game in a fast way. It's to create action and to create situations that people can learn from."

Ripken wants to eliminate the major drop-off of kids letting go of baseball once they switch from playing on a small field to a larger field. He said for 12- and 13-year-olds, the diamond size becomes a little too intimidating. He hopes the Hit and Run initiative will instill an everlasting love for the game at a recreational level. In this way, when kids move to the bigger field, they're not intimidated by it because they're playing a game that they like, regardless of the bumps in the road they'll encounter as the game gets harder.

"Hopefully now once you start getting it accepted in the mainstream and people start to see the results of the learning, then you're going to see the results of a better player down the line," Ripken said. "To me, the judgment of success is, you have more people that are drawn to the game and they want to play the game."

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

Hit and Run Baseball initiative introduced by MLB

Joint program with USA Baseball focused on engaging youth in gameplay
MLB.com

Major League Baseball and USA Baseball announced "Hit and Run Baseball" on Monday, a program supporting modified forms of the game that enable players to develop their skills in a more interactive format while also promoting player health and safety.

Hit and Run Baseball is part of the Play Ball initiative, and it will serve youth leagues, tournament providers and amateur coaches with recommended game formats that can be easily applied at all levels of youth and amateur baseball. Leagues and coaches can also create their own modified rules to best suit their individual league, tournament or team needs.

Major League Baseball and USA Baseball announced "Hit and Run Baseball" on Monday, a program supporting modified forms of the game that enable players to develop their skills in a more interactive format while also promoting player health and safety.

Hit and Run Baseball is part of the Play Ball initiative, and it will serve youth leagues, tournament providers and amateur coaches with recommended game formats that can be easily applied at all levels of youth and amateur baseball. Leagues and coaches can also create their own modified rules to best suit their individual league, tournament or team needs.

More on Hit and Run Baseball

Coaches, leagues and administrators can find more information about the Hit and Run program at HitandRunBaseball.com.

"Hit and Run Baseball was created as a teaching tool designed to remind baseball participants that playing our game does not require a one-size-fits-all approach," said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. "There are many different ways to structure practice, games and tournaments so that players get the most out of their experiences, particularly through crisp pace of play while also limiting pitch count burdens on pitchers."

The main tenets of the Hit and Run Baseball program are:

• Quicker pace-of-play with more game action by reducing the number of pitches per at-bat, increasing the frequency of balls-in-play, and giving teams bonuses for hitting certain pace-of-play goals.

• More engagement with youth players by introducing more diverse game situations, giving players the opportunity to play different defensive positions and providing more opportunities to participate defensively.

• Improved player health and safety by limiting pitch counts, particularly among the youngest age groups.

• More teaching opportunities for coaches to provide immediate feedback to players.

Pilots of the Hit and Run Baseball program have resulted in games being played in a shorter time frame with more plate appearances, more balls in play and pitchers throwing fewer pitches.

"The importance of fun and actionable forms of game modification was identified early on in our strategic plan for growing our sport," said Rick Riccobono, USA Baseball's Chief Development Officer. "By creating this platform, we aim to make baseball available to a wider audience of participants by normalizing alternative methods of gameplay and further energizing the experience within the game."

Among the youth and amateur organizations that support Hit and Run Baseball are the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC), American Legion, Babe Ruth League, Dixie Youth, Dixie Boys & Majors, Little League International, Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), National Amateur Baseball Federation (NABF), Ripken Baseball, USA Baseball, NCTB, PONY Baseball and Softball and Perfect Game.

Strategy and adjustments for the program moving forward will be guided by a committee consisting of leadership from throughout the professional and amateur levels of baseball, including Cal Ripken Jr. (Baseball Hall of Famer; MLB special advisor; vice chair of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation), Michael Cuddyer (special assistant of baseball operations for the Minnesota Twins; USA Baseball Sport Development contributor; two-time MLB All-Star; member of the Minnesota Twins Hall of Fame), Steve Keener (president and CEO, Little League International), Elliot Hopkins (director of sports, sanctioning and students services, National Federation of State High Schools Association), Paul Mainieri (head coach, Louisiana State University Tigers), John Vodenlich (head coach, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawks), Josh Bloom (medical director, Carolina Sports Concussion Clinic; head medical team physician of the Carolina Hurricanes and USA Baseball), Kyle Stark (vice president and assistant general manager, Pittsburgh Pirates), Shaun Larkin (coordinator of skill development, Los Angeles Dodgers organization; former Minor League manager and coach; former collegiate and high school coach), Sean Campbell (senior director of sport development, USA Baseball) and David James (vice president of baseball and softball development, Major League Baseball; head of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities).

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

Pirates host annual Play Ball event at PNC Park

MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- A group of 150 local kids between ages 5-14 were able to run across the PNC Park outfield while participating in drills and games on Sunday morning as the Pirates hosted their yearly Play Ball event.

"This is the fourth year the Pirates are doing the Play Ball initiative," said Chris Ganter, manager of youth baseball initiatives for the Pirates organization. "It's a relatively new program that Major League Baseball started in an effort to raise awareness for the sport and also teach kids about the fun ways to enjoy the sport of baseball and softball without necessarily needing 18 players out on a formal field."

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PITTSBURGH -- A group of 150 local kids between ages 5-14 were able to run across the PNC Park outfield while participating in drills and games on Sunday morning as the Pirates hosted their yearly Play Ball event.

"This is the fourth year the Pirates are doing the Play Ball initiative," said Chris Ganter, manager of youth baseball initiatives for the Pirates organization. "It's a relatively new program that Major League Baseball started in an effort to raise awareness for the sport and also teach kids about the fun ways to enjoy the sport of baseball and softball without necessarily needing 18 players out on a formal field."

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The day began at 8 a.m. ET, as the boys and girls in attendance -- wearing black "Pirates Play Ball 2018" T-shirts -- participated in running, hitting, fielding and pitching drills on the field, with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and other coaches looking on and helping out. The kids were divided into groups and rotated through five stations set up throughout the field, each housing a different drill.

Tweet from @BucsCommunity: This morning we hosted our #PlayBall event with our coaches on the field at PNC! pic.twitter.com/S4MqvUV4Zh

The free event was part of the Play Ball program that Major League Baseball and USA Baseball collaboratively launched in 2015. In an effort to inspire active participation in baseball and softball throughout America's youth, Play Ball puts an emphasis on teaching kids how to play the game even when not participating in organized baseball leagues.

"It's critical to the Pirates organization that our kids have the opportunity to play baseball and softball," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said. "There's so much that comes from that great sport. This is America's game. We have to make sure that in our community, at the very least, where we can have an impact, that the kids know that the great game of baseball is something that they should treasure."

The program concluded at 11:30 a.m., after a 30-minute Q&A session with Pirates outfielder Jose Osuna, infielder Adam Frazier, hitting coaches Jeff Branson and Jeff Livesey, and broadcaster John Werner. The group fielded questions on a wide range of topics -- from baseball to dancing to video games -- and provided advice to the youth about the types of drills they can do at home to improve their hitting skills.

"It means a lot because it's about giving back and trying to get the kids to understand we're a person just like they are," Branson said. "It's about giving the information that we've learned back to them."

Mason Wittner is a reporter for MLB.com.

Pittsburgh Pirates

More than 100 kids attend Play Ball event in S.C.

Special to MLB.com

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- More than 100 children came out to Major League Baseball's final Play Ball event of the spring at C.C. Woodson Recreation Center on Saturday.

The children received instruction from volunteer coaches and MLB staff on the fundamentals, including how to field a groundball, round the bases and more.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- More than 100 children came out to Major League Baseball's final Play Ball event of the spring at C.C. Woodson Recreation Center on Saturday.

The children received instruction from volunteer coaches and MLB staff on the fundamentals, including how to field a groundball, round the bases and more.

Director of the Spartanburg Youth Sports Bureau, Luther Norman, said the Play Ball event was a great way to help renew interest in the area's youth.

"These kids get to go home and tell their friends about the fun that they had," he said. "Spartanburg was involved with Major League Baseball for a number of years in the '80s when the RBI [Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities] program was first started. With a program like this, it does wonders. It keeps kids out of the streets and brings people together. You can't measure with money what this means to the kids and the community."

Saturday's event served as part of MLB's initiative to help bring access and interest in baseball and softball among rural, predominantly African-American communities like Spartanburg, which Norman said has been an integral part of the city's past.

The Spartanburg Phillies were a local commodity as an affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies in the Western Carolinas League and South Atlantic League from 1963-80 and 1986-94. Norman said that since the Phillies' departure, baseball has become a fading interest among the children of upstate South Carolina, especially African-Americans.

"These kids here will remember this event for the rest of their lives," he said. "Baseball has always been a integral part of the African-American community for bringing us together and galvanizing the community. It just does a lot of positives, and we need more of that in our inner cities."

However, the event was as much about having fun as it was baseball fundamentals. Bennett Shields, MLB's senior manager for baseball and softball development, said that MLB events not only help engage kids in athletics, but also provide a social outlet.

"First and foremost, it's something to do," Shields said. "If it's that first experience with baseball or softball, then great. For those of us that have been in the game, it's easy to take the fundamentals for granted. Play Ball and these events are our opportunity to show these kids 'here's how you swing a bat.'"

At the conclusion of the event, each participant was given a Franklin plastic bat and ball set to take home so that they can play at home.

"It's incredibly important to the MLB to try to make sure that the game is still relevant in African-American communities and make sure the rich history that African-Americans have in this game continues," Shields said. "Even if they aren't joining a league, we hope they're out playing backyard baseball or at a park and enjoying it with their friends or family. If we can get a couple kids out doing this on their own, then we've done their job."

Parents can go to playball.org to find more information about the program as well as find the nearest leagues for their children. There's also ideas on games to play with a small group as well as instructional videos on how to further their skills.

Sean Carley is a contributor to MLB.com based in South Carolina.

Reds honor Stowe with youth field dedication

Late clubhouse manager worked for Cincinnati for 67 years
MLB.com

CINCINNATI -- The Reds and the Reds Community Fund honored the memory of a cherished member of the franchise's history on Saturday, hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a renovated baseball field at Gilday Riverside Park on Cincinnati's West Side.

Bernie Stowe Field was dedicated in honor of the longtime Reds clubhouse manager who worked for the team for 67 years, starting in 1953 at Crosley Field. Stowe was a ballboy for the '53 All-Star Game, and he eventually became the senior clubhouse and equipment manager. He retired in '13 and passed away in '16 at 80 years old. In '08, Stowe was given the Reds Hall of Fame's Powell Crosley Jr. Award, which honors staff members' extraordinary service and dedication.

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CINCINNATI -- The Reds and the Reds Community Fund honored the memory of a cherished member of the franchise's history on Saturday, hosting a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a renovated baseball field at Gilday Riverside Park on Cincinnati's West Side.

Bernie Stowe Field was dedicated in honor of the longtime Reds clubhouse manager who worked for the team for 67 years, starting in 1953 at Crosley Field. Stowe was a ballboy for the '53 All-Star Game, and he eventually became the senior clubhouse and equipment manager. He retired in '13 and passed away in '16 at 80 years old. In '08, Stowe was given the Reds Hall of Fame's Powell Crosley Jr. Award, which honors staff members' extraordinary service and dedication.

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"It was just an incredible moment," said Charlie Frank, executive director of Reds Community Fund. "It was fantastic to be with the Stowe family and be able to celebrate Bernie's legacy."

Over 20 members of the Stowe family were on hand for the ceremony.

The threefold complex received numerous upgrades and additions, including new dugouts, a scoreboard with Stowe's likeness on it, a covered seating area, fencing, a concession building and a mural boasting some of the highlights of Stowe's career.

The complex is home to the St. William Athletic Association and Holy Family Catholic School, where Stowe attended elementary school.

Tweet from @Reds: The Reds and the Reds Community Fund this morning honored long-time clubhouse manager Bernie Stowe by dedicating a newly renovated field in his name at Gilday Riverside Park. Bernie's sons, Rick and Mark, were joined by Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench for the festivities. #PlayBall pic.twitter.com/nlnd1MhsG6

"This project was really an enjoyable and fascinating experience," Frank said. "It speaks to how much people care about the Stowe family and was the culmination of a really exciting eight to 10 month process."

A host of Reds greats and front-office members were in attendance, including home clubhouse manager Rick Stowe and his brother and visiting clubhouse manager Mark Stowe, Hall of Famers Joe Morgan and Johnny Bench, CEO Bob Castellini, chief operating officer Phil Castellini and broadcaster Marty Brennaman. Mayor John Cranley was also in attendance.

"You hear stories of what Bernie meant to the 1975, 1976 and 1990 Reds. He was just the glue when the team was at home. You can certainly see that through the way Rick and Mark carry themselves," Frank said.

The dedication was held in conjunction with Reds Play Ball weekend as part of Major League Baseball's initiative that celebrates youth baseball and softball in all its forms.

A couple of local youth teams who will use the field were present to check out their new confines.

"I think the kids were in awe," Frank said. "To have all of these amenities, like a working scoreboard and a dugout that has ball racks, bat racks and helmet racks, the kids were running around with a tremendous amount of excitement. They are going to be able to use this field for many years to come."

Brian Rippee is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cincinnati.

Cincinnati Reds

D-backs unveil Willie Bloomquist Field in Tempe

Arizona Diamondbacks

Ask 9-year-old Zachary Hull how he did in his last Tempe South Little League game, and the outfielder/catcher is quick to forgo any mention of a 2-for-3 night at the plate or throwing out a baserunner trying to stretch a single into a double. Instead, expect to hear about that last game's final score and his Monsoon team's latest win-loss record. The youngster's team-first mentality is ironic, since it's reminiscent of the overall group effort that went into Tempe's Willie Bloomquist Field.

Hull joined his Monsoon teammates and the seven other Tempe Minors teams on Saturday to help unveil the 41st "Diamonds Back" field in the D-backs and Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation's youth field-building program, supported by APS. Just weeks after the big league ballclub debuted Erubiel Durazo Field in Douglas, Ariz., the renovated Willie Bloomquist Field similarly represented a community investment in youth sports programs exceeding $10 million since its overall inception in 2000.

Ask 9-year-old Zachary Hull how he did in his last Tempe South Little League game, and the outfielder/catcher is quick to forgo any mention of a 2-for-3 night at the plate or throwing out a baserunner trying to stretch a single into a double. Instead, expect to hear about that last game's final score and his Monsoon team's latest win-loss record. The youngster's team-first mentality is ironic, since it's reminiscent of the overall group effort that went into Tempe's Willie Bloomquist Field.

Hull joined his Monsoon teammates and the seven other Tempe Minors teams on Saturday to help unveil the 41st "Diamonds Back" field in the D-backs and Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation's youth field-building program, supported by APS. Just weeks after the big league ballclub debuted Erubiel Durazo Field in Douglas, Ariz., the renovated Willie Bloomquist Field similarly represented a community investment in youth sports programs exceeding $10 million since its overall inception in 2000.

The latest "Diamonds Back" field features a new scoreboard, fencing, windscreens and trees funded by the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation, while the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community funded the irrigation system, sod and other general field and practice field updates. With additional support provided by the City of Tempe and local contractors and businesses, the D-backs Camper Fund -- led by several members of the annual D-backs Fantasy Camp -- also played a major role in Willie Bloomquist Field, raising funds to assist the D-backs with efforts to promote interest in youth baseball and softball since 2008.

"When we put a player's name up on one of these fields, we have to make sure that it is a player who truly has made an impact on the fan base and the community -- and one that we are going to be proud of forever," said D-backs president & CEO Derrick Hall. "There is no doubt that Willie is the right role model for all of these residents here in Tempe. When I think back to players that have worn a D-backs uniform, one stands out. And that's Willie Bloomquist."

Bloomquist's ties to the area are strong. In addition to playing for the D-backs from 2011-13 -- which included filling an important role on the '11 National League West championship club, his lone playoff appearance in a 14-year MLB career -- Saturday's field dedication was in the shadow of nearby Arizona State University, where the Sun Devil Hall of Famer earned 1999 Pac-10 Player of the Year honors and posted a collegiate batting average of .394 over three seasons.

"Usually, when you mention these D-backs fields, you think of All-Stars, Cy Young Award winners or [World Series] Most Valuable Players," said the former utility player. "I never had those accolades, however, I never wanted to be remembered as that type of player. How I hope to be remembered is [as] somebody who played the game the right way, had the respect of his teammates, fans and friends, and went about his business the right way. So every time a future generation gets to play on this field and asks, 'Who's that guy?' when they see my name on the scoreboard, my hope and my desire is that someone will say that's a guy that represented the people that weren't the most athletic or the most talented. He was the guy that worked the hardest and wouldn't be outdone."

Crediting his late father, Bill, former ASU baseball head coach Pat Murphy and former D-backs manager Kirk Gibson as positive influences on his life, Bloomquist told the young Tempe ballplayers in attendance -- who were all decked out in D-backs-branded uniforms as part of the franchise's Give Back jersey program -- that the national pastime can give back in unexpected ways if you let it.

"It wasn't too long ago that I was in your shoes, and my father taught me how to play the game the right way," said Bloomquist. "This game was never meant to be easy. It's a game of failure. It's a game of humbling experiences, and can be downright cruel sometimes. But I promise you, this game builds character if you go about it the right way.

"When you play on this field, I hope that you will respect the game, respect your teammates, respect your coaches, respect the uniform and, most importantly, respect yourself."

Josh Greene is director of publications for the D-backs.

Arizona Diamondbacks

Andrus promotes healthy lifestyle to youth

Rangers' shortstop discusses how there are no shortcuts in baseball
Special to MLB.com

ARLINGTON -- The 50 or so prep baseball players who showed up at Globe Life Park on Saturday morning got a crash course in doing things the right way as part of the National PLAY Campaign to promote the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.

The main message they got from the likes of Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, head trainer Kevin Harmon and Don Hooton, whose son Taylor committed suicide after using anabolic steroids, was there are no shortcuts to success in baseball.

ARLINGTON -- The 50 or so prep baseball players who showed up at Globe Life Park on Saturday morning got a crash course in doing things the right way as part of the National PLAY Campaign to promote the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.

The main message they got from the likes of Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus, head trainer Kevin Harmon and Don Hooton, whose son Taylor committed suicide after using anabolic steroids, was there are no shortcuts to success in baseball.

It's a message they believe got through to the players and coaches who came from all over North Texas.

"It's really important," Andrus said. "They're at an age right now where they need good advice. They need a good way to do it. They're at a critical age for them as athletes. When I was that age, if I had good advice -- which I did -- it makes the whole thing different."

The boys heard from Andrus, Harmon, Hooton and others from the visiting bullpen at Globe Life Park before heading to different stations. They ran drills in the outfield, visited the weight room and heard about nutrition. The highlight for them was getting to hit in the batting cages, where Andrus worked with the players as they hit off a tee and offered tips.

It was an eye-opening day for many players, who had never been to Globe Life Park or met a Major Leaguer.

"I like seeing how [the Rangers] treat their players, how the trainers take care of them, how we take care of our players and seeing the differences," said Sam Hughes, a junior catcher from Quinlan High School. "I like seeing how the professionals do it, so I can start working my way up to it. It's scary to hear about PEDs. Kids my age are doing it, and there's no way you're supposed to be doing that."

Hughes is just the kind of player the program, which is in its 15th year, is trying to reach. Hooton said the average age for boys to start experimenting with PEDs is 15. Being able to talk to the players, along with some of their coaches and parents, was a huge opportunity.

It also helps to have someone like Andrus on board. Andrus is on the All Me League advisory board for the Taylor Hooton Foundation. Andrus talked to the athletes about how, when he was 16, he saw other players taking shortcuts to try to get ahead. That just made him work harder.

The impact of Saturday's event will hopefully be felt for years to come.

"[Having role models like] Elvis and the other players across the league is extremely important," Hooton said. "Combined with getting to be in a Major League ballpark and [having] MLB and the management staff ... behind it, hopefully every one of these boys is going to remember their day on the field and remember the message they heard today. I think it all works together. We'll never know, but you hope that with these guys at their age, we can get them to think twice. For many of these kids, this will be the only time they get a message about the importance of proper diet, proper exercise and to not take shortcuts."

Anthony Andro is a contributor to MLB.com based in Arlington.

Texas Rangers, Elvis Andrus

Springer helps unveil refurbished kids' field

MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Astros World Series MVP Award winner George Springer headlined a special ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, commemorating the opening of a newly refurbished field designed especially for Houston-area kids.

The building of the field, located at SpringSpirit Baseball Complex, was a joint effort between the Astros, The Scotts Company, The Home Depot, Major League Baseball and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

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HOUSTON -- Astros World Series MVP Award winner George Springer headlined a special ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, commemorating the opening of a newly refurbished field designed especially for Houston-area kids.

The building of the field, located at SpringSpirit Baseball Complex, was a joint effort between the Astros, The Scotts Company, The Home Depot, Major League Baseball and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

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"This is all about the kids," Springer said. "It's about them having a place to go and enjoy themselves as kids. I'm glad the community has a place like this to come and enjoy a great sport."

Springer visited with many of the young ballplayers who will use the new facility, and then he stuck around to offer tips and lessons during a youth baseball clinic that took place on the refurbished field.

After answering a half-dozen questions from the kids about his unique haircut, Springer encouraged them to use the field as often as possible, and to make sure they have fun while doing so.

"Sports has had a great impact on my life," he said. "It has a way of being therapeutic. I want every parent and kid here to understand that baseball is just a game. Softball is just a game. But every time you step onto this beautiful field here, enjoy it. Have fun. Get dirty. Dive in the grass and the dirt."

SpringSpirit Baseball is a Houston nonprofit that serves youth age 4-17 and their families in an under-served area of North Spring Branch. The refurbished field is part of a sprawling seven-acre campus, thanks in part to The Home Depot and The Scotts Company as part of the national field refurbishment program.

"When these families and these kids see our star player here, when they see MLB and our community putting money back into this program, it's a tip of the cap to all of you parents and all of you kids that you guys are doing the right thing," Astros president of business operations Reid Ryan said. "The rest of the city is noticing, and we're proud of you."

"We've been blessed in so many ways, so many times," said SpringSpirit co-founder Kenny Baldwin. "You look at this field, and you go, 'Wow.' Many kids have a lot of bad hops in life, but there are no bad hops here at SpringSpirit."

MLB and Scotts, a longtime league sponsor, began the Scotts Field Refurbishment Program prior to the 2016 season to provide kids with modern, playable ballfields in communities around the U.S.

"We're so proud to be part of the SpringSpirit family," Astros Foundation executive director Twila Carter said. "They are working with the kids and youth, but really, they're working with families. They provide so many opportunities for such great things for these kids. I look here, and I see the future Springers and Altuves right here in the crowd."

"We hope the work done at SpringSpirit Baseball Complex will impact the area and provide youth access to the game and to the valuable lessons that go along with being part of a team -- to learn what it means to earn history and invite team spirit to become tomorrow's leaders," Scotts district marketing manager Philip Authement said. 

Also attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony was Harris County Judge Ed Emmett, who said that in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, the best way to elicit cheers from Houstonians was to simply say, "Houston Astros."

"There's one image I want to leave with you," Emmett said. "You know how many kids that are going to run back to that fence and jump up into that fence pretending they're George Springer? That's what's going to happen here. This is a great day. The kids are going to be beneficiaries for days to come. Harris County's proud that this is part of our county."

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

Houston Astros, George Springer

Play Ball 5-borough tour begins in Manhattan

Youth event held on Lower East Side in tandem with Our Lady of Sorrows Little League Opening Day
Special to MLB.com

NEW YORK -- On a sun-soaked Saturday morning on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, nearly 400 kids participated in baseball drills and games at the launch of Major League Baseball's five-borough Play Ball tour of New York City.

At John V. Lindsay East River Park in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge, the kids smacked Wiffle balls in a home run derby, fielded ground balls and practiced baserunning on an expansive turf field. Most were celebrating their own Opening Day with the Lower East Side Our Lady of Sorrows (OLS) Little League -- the same league where Yankees reliever Dellin Betances got his start.

NEW YORK -- On a sun-soaked Saturday morning on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, nearly 400 kids participated in baseball drills and games at the launch of Major League Baseball's five-borough Play Ball tour of New York City.

At John V. Lindsay East River Park in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge, the kids smacked Wiffle balls in a home run derby, fielded ground balls and practiced baserunning on an expansive turf field. Most were celebrating their own Opening Day with the Lower East Side Our Lady of Sorrows (OLS) Little League -- the same league where Yankees reliever Dellin Betances got his start.

The morning began with an Opening Day parade to the field from the OLS church a few blocks away. When the kids arrived, they were greeted by MLB staff to receive Play Ball T-shirts and split into groups for drills. Then, in the afternoon, they kicked off their Little League season.

"It's a great opportunity for MLB to partner with Little Leagues, especially here in our backyard in New York," said MLB senior director of baseball development Del Matthews. "We're celebrating their Opening Day and also taking the kids through our Play Ball routine."

Tweet from @PlayBall: Practice, practice, practice at #PlayBall in NYC. pic.twitter.com/ctyVoz3M63

Play Ball is an MLB initiative to promote the love of baseball and softball among young people and communities. In addition to partnering with local leagues, Play Ball stresses the importance of more casual forms of the game -- like stickball and Wiffle ball, which have deep roots in New York City.

"That is one of the key tenets and the spirit of Play Ball -- you don't need nine players, you don't need nine gloves and a hard baseball," said Tom Brasuell, MLB's vice president of community affairs.

Although Play Ball has hosted events in New York City in the past, Saturday's was the first of its kind on the Lower East Side. Between April and September, Play Ball will hold similar events in the other four boroughs: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

Tony Rivera, the president of OLS Little League, said MLB reached out to him to ask if Play Ball could use the fields at East River Park for the event. Rivera pointed out the potential conflict with his league's Opening Day, but ultimately, he was happy to collaborate with MLB on a morning event before the games began in the afternoon.

"I said, 'I like the idea. Why don't we collaborate and put something bigger together and just have a great time for the kids?'" Rivera said. "It's awesome."

Rivera added that he hopes events like this one -- as well as a May 12 clinic for OLS little leaguers run by Betances -- will help draw more kids to baseball in this neighborhood.

"It's about understanding that inner-city baseball needs to continue to expand," Rivera said. "We know about the Mets and the Yankees here, our hometown teams, but kids need to understand that there's an opportunity for them to be a part of this game and all the benefits that Little League baseball brings to you."

Those benefits were on display Saturday in the passion of young players like 10-year-old Christian Galarza, a two-way star for the Six Borough Mets of the OLS league.

"I play catcher, center field and pitcher," Galarza said, noting that his favorite position is catcher because he likes throwing out baserunners. Galarza's favorite thing about baseball? "That you get to bat," he said, adding: "And it's not all about winning, but it's about having fun."

Galarza's mother, Patricia Taveras, is a parent coordinator for the league and a first-year assistant coach. She was thrilled to see MLB focusing its efforts in New York and, in particular, on the Lower East Side.

"I'm really excited that they were able to bring something like this to our community," Taveras said. "Everybody talked about, 'Oh my gosh, this is the first time we're doing something here.' We need to do more things like this going forward."

Aaron Leibowitz is a contributor to MLB.com.

Arkansas Play Ball event aims to 'create smiles'

Trout among big names to have played for Mariners' Double-A affiliate, which hosted youth program
Special to MLB.com

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Dillon Hupp couldn't help but be jealous of some of the children roaming center field at Dickey-Stephens Park during Major League Baseball's Play Ball event Saturday.

That's where Mike Trout once played as a member of the Arkansas Travelers before becoming a six-time American League All-Star and the AL Most Valuable Player Award winner in 2014 and '16 with the Angels.

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Dillon Hupp couldn't help but be jealous of some of the children roaming center field at Dickey-Stephens Park during Major League Baseball's Play Ball event Saturday.

That's where Mike Trout once played as a member of the Arkansas Travelers before becoming a six-time American League All-Star and the AL Most Valuable Player Award winner in 2014 and '16 with the Angels.

"We're standing here where Mike Trout played," said Hupp, who is the commissioner of the Little Rock RBI program. "They ran to first base where Mike Trout played. C.J. Wilson pitched on that mound. Ryon Healy with the Mariners just played on this field. We're talking about legit MLB guys that these kids can look up to."

More than 200 children, ages 5 to 18, participated in MLB's Play Ball event at Dickey-Stephens Park, the home of the Travelers, who are the Mariners' Double-A affiliate.

Saturday's event was a joint partnership between the Travelers, MLB, Little Rock RBI, USA Softball, the Boys & Girls Clubs in Little Rock and North Little Rock, and Pulaski County Youth Services in Little Rock.

"We really wanted to do something for the community," Hupp said. "For RBI, it fits right along with our mission that baseball is for everyone.

"If you're in this community, we want you to be able to play baseball, regardless of how much money your family makes or regardless of where you live and what your background is."

The children who participated Saturday got to take a home a free T-shirt and a bat and ball set. Saturday's event was free to the public.

Tony Reagins, the executive vice president of baseball and softball development for MLB, stressed the value of events such as Play Ball for communities throughout the United States.

"We think it's important to do these types of events to get kids introduced to the game and have a pleasant experience," Reagins said. "Hopefully they'll continue playing once they leave here."

Rusty Meeks, the Travelers' assistant general manager, said his team's relationship with the community and attempting to work with central Arkansas children is an important one.

"This is a huge part of what we do," Meeks said. "To be able to give back in the community, this is what it's about. These kids have smiles on their faces and enjoying the moment. It reminds me of why I love the game so much. This is a great opportunity to give back."

Arkansas is home for several past and present big leaguers, including Baseball Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson (Little Rock), five-time AL All-Star and former outfielder Torii Hunter (Pine Bluff), former AL Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee (Benton) and current players Drew Smyly (Little Rock) and Blake Parker (Fayetteville).

Reagins, Meeks and Hupp all agreed that the state's baseball history can only help the children who took part in Saturday's event and who are currently playing in baseball programs throughout the state.

"It's extremely important for the kids to learn that history," Reagins said. "It's important to our long-term legacy, in terms of getting kids familiar with what has gone on before them. A lot of big leaguers have come out of this state. We're excited to be a part of being able to share that history with them and with the Travelers."

Over the next five to 10 years, Reagins wants to see continued growth with the Play Ball initiative.

"We want to go into underserved communities and stress the importance of playing baseball and softball," Reagins said. "When you're at events like this and some kids don't know how to stand in a batter's box, you can give them that experience. This is how you hold a bat, this is how you hold a baseball, this is how you put your feet in the batter's box. Within two minutes, we had kids hitting the ball over [the right-field fence at Dickey-Stephens Park]. So that's pretty exciting to see, within a short amount of instruction, the light kicked on. The reaction was a huge smile. If we can create those smiles over and over again, that's success to me."

Jeremy Muck is a contributor to MLB.com.

Play Ball event a hit at Springfield College

Special to MLB.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- When a member of Springfield College's baseball team tossed a foam ball to Julian Suggs, the fourth-grader cranked the ball over the heads of his classmates.

"It's fun," Suggs, 10, of Springfield, Mass., said after rounding the bases of a small baseball diamond set up in the corner of Berry-Allen Field's outfield as part of an MLB Play Ball baseball clinic. "We actually get to be on the field!"

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- When a member of Springfield College's baseball team tossed a foam ball to Julian Suggs, the fourth-grader cranked the ball over the heads of his classmates.

"It's fun," Suggs, 10, of Springfield, Mass., said after rounding the bases of a small baseball diamond set up in the corner of Berry-Allen Field's outfield as part of an MLB Play Ball baseball clinic. "We actually get to be on the field!"

Suggs and about 150 other kids ran, hit balls and learned some basic baseball skills as part of MLB's efforts to bring baseball to underserved communities.

The elementary-school students hailed from Elias Brookings School and William N. DeBerry School. Both are in Springfield, a city in which nearly 30 percent of residents fall beneath the poverty line, nearly double the national poverty rate, according to U.S. Census data.

"A lot of these kids live in apartment buildings, and parks aren't safe," Katrika James, a fourth-grade teacher at Brookings, said while she watched kids shift from one skills station to the next. "I think what they're getting out of this is a once-in-a-lifetime chance."

MLB vice president of baseball and softball development David James said MLB began talks with Springfield College approximately a year ago about putting on a clinic for local kids.

Putting on a Play Ball event in Springfield can provide an entry point to the game that many kids at the event may not otherwise get, James said. But in addition to introducing them to baseball, the event put the youngsters on a college campus, which could get them thinking about their future.

"I think our responsibility is to create major league citizens," James said.

Berry-Allen Field itself is a testament to community engagement via baseball.

Springfield College, along with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, completed the $2.3 million Berry-Allen Field project in September. Construction of the field was part of the Ripken Foundation's youth development park initiative. However, Berry-Allen is its first youth development field that serves as a college and community baseball field.

Along with the kids and Springfield College students directing them, Red Sox mascot Wally the Green Monster jogged from station to station cheering batting practices, watching obstacle-course drills and doling out high fives to kids who usually only see him on TV.

The Red Sox Foundation spends much of its resources in Boston, said executive director Bekah Salwasser. But Red Sox Nation spans far outside the state capital's city limits, and encouraging fitness in kids is part of the organization's core mission, she said.

"You can hear the laughter, you can hear them screaming today," Salwasser said. "I think that's what's going to be everlasting for these young people."

It's great to see kids get the chance to participate in an MLB event and learn some basics about baseball, according to Calvin Hill, senior vice president for inclusion and community engagement at Springfield College. And the fact that it took place on a college campus is important.

Just less than 11 percent of Springfield residents over the age of 25 hold a bachelor's degree, less than half the statewide rate, according to Census data. Which is part of why Springfield College makes an effort to partner with public schools on programs that bring kids onto its campus.

"If they see themselves on a college campus, it gives them access to something they may not have," Hill said.

At an obstacle course station, Vincent Bryant, 11, paid no attention to the ominous clouds gathering above him as he hopped over miniature hurdles, weaved between cones and -- almost -- caught a foam ball before jogging back with the rest of his teammates.

Bryant, a fourth-grader at Brookings, wore seven souvenir Red Sox hats stacked on top of each other ("It makes me look taller," he said), but said he's more into art than sports. Despite his artistic leanings, though, he was thrilled for the opportunity to run around a college field.

Asked if he wants to go to college, Bryant smiled and gave a hearty nod. Asked what he wants to study, he replied, "I have no idea."

Sean Teehan is a contributor to MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox

The science behind the new youth bat regulations

A look at the trampoline effect, the guiding force behind Little League's new bat regulations
MLB.com

If it seemed like far more gifts than usual were wrapped in long, skinny boxes this past holiday season, there was good reason: New youth baseball bat standards took effect Jan. 1.

As announced by Little League in August 2015, players in the Major Division and below now need a bat that adheres to the new rules, called USABat, that are aimed at producing youth bats that act more like wood. That may sound like an impossible task, but luckily some of the country's top scientists are on the case.

If it seemed like far more gifts than usual were wrapped in long, skinny boxes this past holiday season, there was good reason: New youth baseball bat standards took effect Jan. 1.

As announced by Little League in August 2015, players in the Major Division and below now need a bat that adheres to the new rules, called USABat, that are aimed at producing youth bats that act more like wood. That may sound like an impossible task, but luckily some of the country's top scientists are on the case.

The standards were developed over several years of collaboration between USA Baseball and manufacturers. Louisville Slugger, in particular, ran 3,000 players through its play-testing facility, receiving feedback for its own development process that it also shared with USA Baseball. The primary focus for the manufacturer with its new USABats, which went on sale last fall, was on creating a lightweight bat that minimizes sting and vibration on contact -- a frequent source of feedback received during the testing process -- at an affordable price point for a youth market that includes many players getting into the game for the first time.

"I think in the long run, this is going to be really positive for the game," said Tom Burns, senior product line manager at Louisville Slugger. "It kind of evens the playing field and it puts the emphasis back on the players' ability and the players' willingness to train and work hard and develop their swing.

"It's on them now. We're going to develop products that enhance that, but there's not going to be these huge disparities just due to product now. I think that's good for the long-term integrity of the game."

Before a bat can get the seal of approval (literally -- all certified bats are stamped with a USABat logo), scientists run the new stick through a series of tests to ensure that it meets the new regulations and performs like its wooden counterpart in the batter's box. These tests check the bat's trampoline effect, a measurement of how fast a ball bounces off a bat when it makes contact.

A simpler way to show the trampoline effect is to imagine yourself jumping on a trampoline. When you land, the trampoline springs back and bounces you up into the air. This is the same thing that happens when you hit a ball with a bat and the ball sails into the field, and it is the speed of the ball's "bounce" that is measured in these new regulations.

To test a bat's trampoline effect, scientists conduct laboratory studies, shooting a ball at a bat with an air cannon and measuring the ball's reaction with high-tech equipment such as lasers and high-speed cameras that can capture the speed of the baseball as it leaves the bat. Different materials produce different trampoline effects, which is why a standard has been implemented for both metal and composite bats. 

The results of this testing are USABats that have a similar performance as wood, but are much lighter and stronger than wood, which can be prone to breakage, particularly for inexperienced players with developing swings.

"I think there's going to be more balls in play, and that's going to lead to better fielding, better player development," Burns said. "More of that small-ball kind of game, which I think is great, especially for the youth player who's developing to get those skills of how to play defense, what to do situationally and how to read the game.

"In the long run, we're going to get better, stronger players out of this."

Experiment: Test the Trampoline Effect at Home!

Take a baseball or another ball that is not bouncy. Drop the ball on a table or a desk from about six inches above the surface. How far and how fast does the ball bounce back? Now try dropping the ball on an elastic surface like a drum from the same distance of six inches above the surface. How does the ball bounce against the new surface? You will see that the ball bounces back faster and farther when it contacts the elastic surface. Try dropping the ball on different surfaces to see how they produce varying trampoline effects against the ball, and you'll figure out what these new bats are all about!

Nats to dedicate Bryce Harper Field in May

Slugger 'excited and honored' to participate in club's Dream Foundation DC-area renovation initiative
MLB.com

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Nationals will dedicate Bryce Harper Field at the Takoma Community Center in Northwest Washington D.C. next month, the third legacy field created in conjunction with Washington Nationals Dream Foundation and the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation.

An official dedication ceremony will take place in early May.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The Nationals will dedicate Bryce Harper Field at the Takoma Community Center in Northwest Washington D.C. next month, the third legacy field created in conjunction with Washington Nationals Dream Foundation and the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation.

An official dedication ceremony will take place in early May.

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"I am excited and honored to participate in the dedication of Bryce Harper Field at the Takoma Community Center," Harper said in a statement. "Youth baseball was a very important part of my childhood. The game of baseball has taught me life lessons and shaped the man I am today. To give back to the D.C. community and have local kids play baseball on a field dedicated in my name is truly an honor."

The Nationals' Dream Foundation plans to renovate one youth baseball and/or softball field in the D.C. region each year and has done so the past two seasons. Ryan Zimmerman Field became the first in April 2016, with a field just a few blocks away from Nationals Park. Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez Field was dedicated in August 2017 at Mason District Park in Annandale, Va.

Zimmerman is one of the faces of the franchise and has been with the club since 2005, while Rodriguez is a Hall of Famer who made a strong impact in a brief period with Washington. While Harper has become one of the faces of the Nationals, his contract is also due to expire at the end of the season.

Despite that, Bryce Harper Field will accommodate different styles of youth baseball play and will serve the surrounding community by hosting the Senators Satchel Paige Little League games. The project includes also a baseball-dedicated play space located to the south of the field.

"I am delighted to announce Bryce's support of the Dream Foundation's third Legacy Field project," Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, chair of the Dream Foundation, said in a statement. "We know that when kids have safe, state-of-the-art facilities to play baseball and softball, they embrace the game and all of its benefits. With these fields, the Dream Foundation is helping to cultivate baseball's lessons of perseverance, teamwork and the importance of physical activity among the D.C. region's kids."

Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.

Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper

Francisco Lindor offers up fielding tips for young infielders

The 2016 Gold Glove Award winner relays his best advice for being a vacuum in the field
MLB.com

An athlete's nickname says everything about the kind of player he or she is. Monikers like Nelson Cruz's "Boomstick," Noah Syndergaard's "Thor" and Josh Donaldson's "Bringer of Rain" tell us exactly what to expect from these larger-than-life stars. The same goes for young shortstop Francisco Lindor, or "Mr. Smile" as he's known around baseball. At any given moment, the Indians superstar could flash his signature grin on the diamond, lighting up the ballpark in more ways than one.

In just his third MLB season, Lindor secured a top-five MVP finish by posting career highs in walks, home runs, RBI and OPS, while leading Cleveland to the best regular-season record in the American League.

An athlete's nickname says everything about the kind of player he or she is. Monikers like Nelson Cruz's "Boomstick," Noah Syndergaard's "Thor" and Josh Donaldson's "Bringer of Rain" tell us exactly what to expect from these larger-than-life stars. The same goes for young shortstop Francisco Lindor, or "Mr. Smile" as he's known around baseball. At any given moment, the Indians superstar could flash his signature grin on the diamond, lighting up the ballpark in more ways than one.

In just his third MLB season, Lindor secured a top-five MVP finish by posting career highs in walks, home runs, RBI and OPS, while leading Cleveland to the best regular-season record in the American League.

Lindor isn't just a threat at the plate, though, as evidenced by his 2016 Gold Glove Award. With an elite skill set on both sides of the ball and a sparkling smile, it's no wonder Lindor ranks as one of the brightest stars in the game at just 24 years old. Here, he shares some tips on being a steady presence in the infield.

Mighty Momentum

You always have to have momentum whether you're throwing to second base, to first or as part of a relay -- whatever you're doing on the field, you have to have momentum.

Video: LAA@CLE: Lindor shows off range to rob Trout

Blocking the Ball

I try to work off my left leg so I have something just in case it takes a bad hop. The ball will still hit me in my chest.

Flipping Out

Giving good feeds to your double play partner is very important. In order to flip the ball to second base, you have to have a stiff wrist. You don't want to flip it [with your wrist] because it'll go into right field. You're going to get your momentum, catch it and flip it.

Consistency Is Key

You have to stay low. It should be the same flip every single time. You have to be consistent.

Cleveland Indians, Francisco Lindor

Boys & Girls Club reopens in Puerto Rico

Manfred on hand for special ceremony during Tribe-Twins series
MLB.com

SAN JOSE, Puerto Rico -- While the Puerto Rico series between the Twins and the Indians is the main event on the island, Major League Baseball has been active in the local community, including hosting a charity event at the Boys & Girls Club in Rio Piedras, San Jose on Tuesday.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred took part in a special ceremony at the grand reopening of the Boys & Girls Club, which was fully renovated after Hurricane Maria. Manfred was joined by former Major Leaguer and Puerto Rico native Carlos Delgado and Boys & Girls Clubs of America president and CEO Jim Clark.

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SAN JOSE, Puerto Rico -- While the Puerto Rico series between the Twins and the Indians is the main event on the island, Major League Baseball has been active in the local community, including hosting a charity event at the Boys & Girls Club in Rio Piedras, San Jose on Tuesday.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred took part in a special ceremony at the grand reopening of the Boys & Girls Club, which was fully renovated after Hurricane Maria. Manfred was joined by former Major Leaguer and Puerto Rico native Carlos Delgado and Boys & Girls Clubs of America president and CEO Jim Clark.

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"I think this is great," Delgado said. "Boys & Girls Club gives kids a great opportunity, especially in a place like this in an inner-city community. It gives the kids a chance to go on to better things. We're so happy to have this in Puerto Rico with all the buzz surrounding the Puerto Rico series. I've been a friend to Boys & Girls for a while, and I have worked with them on the island and in New York when I was on the Mets. At the end of the day, the people who benefit are the kids."

:: Puerto Rico Series coverage ::

Major League Baseball has had a long history with the Boys & Girls Club, as it's been an official partner since 1997. The renovated club in Rio Piedras now has a full basketball court and several activity rooms for the children to use.

"We're always happy to give back, and certainly with the Boys & Girls Club, which has been our official charity for 22 years," said Tom Brasuell, vice president of community affairs for MLB. "We give back in times of disaster. We were here a few years ago when there was a little calamity, and we did charity work after the hurricane during the World Series. We're always supporting Boys & Girls Club, but when times are bad, we're always happy to reach out even further."

MLB has also always had strong relationship with Puerto Rico, as several former stars have come from the island, such as Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Ivan Rodriguez, Roberto Alomar, Bernie Williams, Carlos Beltran and Delgado. MLB also awards the Roberto Clemente Award annually to a player who "best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual's contribution to his team."

"It's an honor to have Carlos Delgado here as a former Roberto Clemente Award winner," Brasuell said. "He's been tremendous in the community when he was player and since then. He's been involved with charities wherever he's played and here in Puerto Rico."

Video: Eddie Rosario returns home to Guayama, Puerto Rico

MLB has been hosting several charity events since Monday, including Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario going back to his former high school in Guayama and Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor visiting his school in Gurabo. Twins right-hander Jose Berrios also visited a local hospital on Monday.

"We're showcasing the best players in the world over the next two days," Brasuell said. "But many past and present players are here on the island where there's a huge passion for baseball. It's important to give back to this region, which has supported baseball for so many years."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins