The bleachers weren’t filled with rowdy fans and the scoreboard wasn’t lit up, but the approximately 200 kids who flocked to Coca-Cola Field Saturday as part of the Bisons’ seventh annual free youth clinic didn’t appear to mind.
“The look on his face was awesome when he walked onto this field,” Kari Hicks said of her 7-year-old son, Mason.
The clinic originated as an event for at-risk youth with the Boys and Girls Club but has evolved over the years to welcome all kids ages 6 to 13.
“It’s exciting to give these kids an opportunity to do something they would not have,” had the chance to do, said Don Slough, an area manager for Enterprise, one of the event’s sponsors. “It’s exciting to see how excited they are.”
The young baseball players rotated through different stations led by volunteers and college baseball players, learning the basics of different techniques, including hitting, throwing and fielding.
As her 8-year-old daughter, Alicia, fielded a baseball to make a throw to first base, Kim Hernandez, 50, said the free clinic offered her kids a chance to learn techniques that would otherwise be difficult for her to afford.
“I love this kind of stuff,” Hernandez said. “It’s good to give them exposure.”
Both Alicia and Hernandez’s son, Antonio, are special education students. The afternoon clinic offered Antonio an opportunity to test his abilities and see if he’s up for the challenge of playing as part of a team, Hernandez said.
“This lets him see if it can fit him,” she said.
Setting foot on the turf and looking up into the rows of seats from the players’ vantage point was also a treat.
“He was just enamored when he first walked in,” Jen Gratien, 39, said of her son Jeremey. “A little bit different than the diamonds they play in.”
Jeremey, 7, plays Little League and said his favorite part of Saturday was watching the whiffle ball he hit clear the fence as part of a batting drill.
“I swung, and it went over the fence,” Jeremey recalled, a smile widening across his face. His mother added that Jeremey also relished the opportunity to sit in the dug-out.
Melvin Jones, 37, used the afternoon as an opportunity to pry his daughter and son from computer games and television, and expose them to one of his childhood pastimes. “It’s good that they have something like this because you can’t get a pick-up game in the neighborhood anymore,” Jones said.
His son, Jorryn, had a slightly different reason for enjoying the outing.
“I get to hit something without getting in trouble,” he said.