Foreboding skies and steady rain could not deter Joba Chamberlain, Sergio Mitre, David Robertson or Nick Swisher from delighting 250 underprivileged youth with their presences, nor could it dampen the kids' enthusiasm.
07/26/2010 11:25 AM ET
Yanks delight kids at NYC clinic
Bombers teach youth at City Clinics, a Player's Trust program
By Adam Spunberg / Special to MLBPLAYERS.com
The successful event, run as part of The Players Trust's nationwide City Clinics program, made great use of the North Meadow fields in Central Park on Friday. It was a well-disposed fusion of altruism, featuring the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), the Yankees, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation and, perhaps most important, the staff affiliated with Derek Aucoin's "The Baseball Center." Without each entity's generous contribution, these children would not have experienced such a day to remember.
"It's fun for both sides," Mitre said. "It's encouraging for the kids to see us, and it makes us remember where we came from."
When asked if he showed his patented sinker to a few students, Mitre laughed and said, "I was in the baserunning station," a skill he retains from his National League days. "I haven't done that in three years," he admitted.
Robertson -- who had never participated in a clinic like this before -- embraced the novelty of the experience. Based on his attitude, one would imagine this will become more habitual.
"It was my first time," he said boyishly. "A great event. Gives them a chance to get a little bit of training."
Swisher and Chamberlain did their best to keep the mood light, dazzling the kids with silly antics and sometimes engaging in adolescent behavior. Swisher greeted the children boisterously as they walked by, and Chamberlain -- caught up in the moment -- resorted to mimicking accents, at one point performing a great impression of Forrest Gump.
Even Nancy Barthold, assistant commissioner for recreation in the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, had some kind words to share.
"We're always grateful to organizations like the Players Trust, who bring programs like this to New York City parks," she said. Her staff provided the venue and assisted the MLBPA faithfully throughout the morning.
Michael Weiner, executive director of the MLBPA, was pleased with how things proceeded, even if he tried to downplay his own sizable efforts in making it all happen.
"Just being here, you can see how much the kids are enjoying this, even with the uncooperative weather," he said. "It's great to see the passion."
When asked about the players' involvement, Weiner offered: "The players understand how fortunate they are, and they really want to give back. Players have been doing this kind of thing ever since I've been at the Union."
Some might dismiss Weiner's words as savvy public relations, but the jubilant scene, shared by both children and players, supported his claims wholeheartedly. The kids were excited to see the players, and the quartet of Yankees reflected that enthrallment.
The most instrumental figure in this saga, however, was former Major Leaguer Aucoin. He helped orchestrate the event, coordinated the instruction and maintained order. If things needed to be held together, he was a special kind of glue, and his magnanimous efforts did not go unnoticed.
"Derek has dedicated his life to helping inner-city kids improve their baseball skills," said Vanessa Seidman, a lawyer and parent whose kids once benefited from some of his good works. "At today's event, he was a focal point for bringing the Yankees together with the inner-city youth."
When asked about his own inspiration, Aucoin said, "Thirty years ago this week, I shook hands with Andre Dawson at an event like this, and that is the only reason this happened. I am a direct product of shaking hands with him. I played for the Expos because of that."
Aucoin wishes fans knew more about the charitable things players do.
"It's about showing up," he insisted. "You don't know how many of these kids have been affected."
For Aucoin, the four participating Yankees, Weiner and the rest of the kind conspirators, it was an exemplary day, and perhaps their works will have far-reaching effects on some of these youths. If nothing else, these kids had a lot of fun.