American Legion Baseball continues helping youth ‘Play Ball’

This past weekend, the 2017 American Legion World Series champions, Henderson, Nev., Post 40, assisted in a Play Ball clinic in conjunction with the Major League Baseball World Series in Houston.

The event took place at the Astros Youth Academy, a facility designed to grow the games of baseball and softball while cultivating diversity in all aspects of the game.

Hundreds of children under the age of 13 participated in the event which included a series of stations to teach the fundamentals of baseball.

Post 40’s players acted as clinicians, running and supporting the various events on the field.

Also participating in the clinic were the Youth of the Year winners from the seven MLB Youth Academies, members of USA Baseball, USA Softball and members of MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program.

Guests on hand included Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs, gold medalist Jennie Finch, commissioner Rob Manfred, Houston mayor Sylvester Turner and Astros owner Jim Crane.

Play Ball is a committed effort to spark widespread participation in all forms of baseball activities among all age groups, especially youth.

“Play Ball is our largest effort to grow baseball and softball at the grassroots level, particularly among kids,” Manfred said when the program was launched.

“A big reason why we do this is because we believe that getting kids to get involved when they’re young lets them take away enjoyment of the game,” Tony Reagins, senior vice president for Youth Programs, Major League Baseball, added. “A big part of making this all work is the volunteers and clinicians that operate the stations that we put forth at each event. We’re grateful for the opportunity to have them come out.”

“American Legion does such a great job providing playing opportunities for kids in a very positive environment that allows kids to grow and prepare for adulthood,” said Rick Riccobono, chief development officer for USA Baseball. “Legion has always been a great member for Team USA.”

“(Play Ball) is a huge success for baseball,” said Rizzo. “It’s cool that all of these instructors are donating their time to come out and help kids that maybe aren’t as fortune to play every single day.”

The Play Ball event was another step in the continuing effort from American Legion Baseball to remain involved in the Play Ball initiative.

At this year’s American Legion World Series, Legion Baseball hosted nearly 500 youth at a Play Ball clinic in Shelby, N.C.

This summer, members of Post 22 in Rapid City, S.D., participated in a historic Play Ball event at Mount Rushmore, aided by Major League Baseball.

In addition, many departments and posts have continued to find new ways to get more players involved in bat-and-ball sports at a young age.

Numerous posts sponsor T-Ball and other youth baseball initiatives.

Recently, the department of North Carolina supported Legion Lady Fastpitch, a softball league that just completed its first year.

“I know first-hand how much sports had an impact on my life and who I am to this day,” Finch said. “If we can get our kids active and on a field playing together they can learn teamwork and discipline.”

“The love of baseball starts at a young age and we actively encourage initiatives that will cultivate that love,” said Gary Stone, chairman of the American Legion Baseball Committee. “Baseball teaches sportsmanship, teamwork, citizenship and many other valuable life lessons. We hope that more posts and departments help support baseball in the community.”

“If you want toconduct a Play Ball event in your area, contact or Major League Baseball,” Reagins said.

Any Legion Baseball teams looking to host a Play Ball may also contact