Astros baseball clinic a hit with kids

June 23, 2008 3:39:13 PM PDT
While a crowd was gathering outside Minute Maid Park to watch the Juneteenth Freedom Parade on a Saturday morning, one could hear the voice of Mike Harris leading baseball drills over the stadium's speakers. Turns out that inside the park, hundreds of youngsters found it cool to be practicing their baseball skills on the home field of the Astros, with families occupying some of the best seats in the house.

The fifth annual Youth Baseball Clinic, hosted by the Houston Area Urban League and the Astros in Action Foundation, was in full swing under the firm, commanding voice of Harris, a coach at the Miracles Baseball Academy of Houston.

"It's real important that kids get this type of exposure, that it not only exposes them to an athletic choice of baseball, but it also gives them a chance to be healthy," said Judson Robinson, president and CEO of the Houston Area Urban League.

The clinic was divided into several stations for hitting off a tee, throwing with staffers, and sprints. Astros greats Jimmy Wynn, J.R. Richard and Larry Dierker were in attendance at Saturday's event.

"I think what the kids really want to learn is the basics about the game of baseball, how to run, how to catch, how to throw, how to hit. And, of course, we've got a life skills program also, to tell the kids all about life," said Wynn, a power-hitting outfielder who started his major-league career in 1963 with the Colt .45s and played 16 years in the majors.

"I expect the kids to get a lot of insight out of this camp, and what it really takes to become a baseball player, which is a lot of things most camps don't teach you about," said Richard, who played all 10 of his major-league seasons with the Astros and struck out at least 300 batters in a season twice.

"All of the life lessons that you learn from participating in a sport, I think, will apply to these children, whether they become high school, college or professional players or not," said Dierker, who in 1969 became the Astros' first 20-game winner.

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