Monday, June 23, 2008
Smithfield Youth Clinic
"Nothing beats the fact that you are on a Major League Field where your idols play. You are practicing in their bullpen, batting in their cage. And for a couple of hours one morning, you feel like a Major Leaguer yourself," stated Barbara Silva, Community Relations Director for Our Washington Nationals. "All these kids are then given tickets to come out to the game that same evening. So, when they are sitting in the stands, they can say: 'I was on that field this morning.' That's pretty exciting, for anyone."
Seven times over the course of the 2008 Baseball Season, Our Washington Nationals, in partnership with Smithfield, sponsor Baseball and Softball Clinics for Children. The Major League Coaching Staff of Our Manager Manny Acta provides the instruction. The third scheduled clinic for this season was conducted this past Saturday Morning at New Nationals Park.
"This gives us the chance to give something back to the community. Yes, it's a small thing, but its very worthwhile. The kids really enjoy it. The weather is great and it's wonderful to have all of them out here on a big league field," said Tim Tolman, Third Base Coach for Our Washington Nationals. "Our game is one where you can compete against the other guy, whether he is bigger than you or not. Baseball is about skills, not about being smaller than him, or not as strong. This gives us the chance to teach the kids teamwork, leadership and also be a part of a fun day of instruction in a unique setting."
Up to 150 kids from ages 6 through 17 attend each session. The Free Clinic is available to any child willing to take part in the Greater Washington, DC Area. You can sign up at the nationals.com/community page. Included in the two hour session is instruction in hitting, fielding, running, pitching, throwing (from a catching position)--even how to warm up properly and take care of the nicks, scrapes and bruises which occur on the baseball diamond each and every day.
On this morning--Tim Tolman, First Base Coach Jerry Morales, Bullpen Coach Rick Aponte, Bench Coach Pat Corrales and Assistant Trainer Mike McGowan were joined by the entire Nationals Batting Practice Pitchers and Catchers. The children are split into Age Groups and move around the field and into the Bullpens and Indoor Batting Cages on 12 minute intervals. Each and every kid gets personal attention.
"I am not sure if we are going to see the results for quite a while, but at least we are making the steps in the right direction," said Tolman. "These clinics are alot of fun. Just look at all the parents behind us. They are all smiling. They all have cameras. To see their kids run around the bases and on the field in this beautiful stadium is special. We are exposing these kids and their parents to Major League Baseball. That's how you maintain interest."
Of course not one of these Youth Clinics could be accomplished without a Sponsor. For 2008, Smithfield, The Virginia Based Food Company has stepped up to the plate. "Smithfield believes the kids are our future," according to Smithfield's Director of Community Affairs, Christine Eppstein. "This is new this year for Smithfield. We believe that sports are very important in the development of young kids. We wanted to get involved and felt this was the best way we could help get more kids involved with baseball. We think it's great that The Nationals have their own stadium here in Washington, DC. So, we wanted to do everything we could to support it."
Outside of another partnership with NASCAR, Our Washington Nationals are their only other partner in professional sports.
After the two hour ON FIELD Training ended--Our Washington Nationals Saul Rivera posted up to meet with many kids. While enjoy a light lunch and receiving two tickets to last Saturday Night's Game versus The Texas Rangers--a Goodie Bag of Nationals Memorabilia was handed to each participant. Saul Rivera then took pictures and signed autographs for each and every child wanting.
The Softball Clinic is scheduled for Tuesday, July 8th. The Next Monthy Baseball Clinic is set for July 12--but that date already has been filled with registrants. Space is still available for the Youth Clinics scheduled for August 30th and September 20.