Pros bring baseball to the kids
SUNBURY - Steve Kline appeared in 796 Major League Baseball games.
Lee Smith, once the all-time leader in career saves, still ranks third on that list.
The two spent one season in the same bullpen in Montreal in 1997 and on Saturday they teamed up again in Sunbury at the Amateur Softball Association of Pennsylvania Hall of Fame's new training facility for the sake of baseball's future.
The space, nearly 10,000 square feet, features batting cages, weight training and pitching mounds and, starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, 50 players from fourth to eighth grade who couldn't wait for spring to start.
Kirt Manwaring, who played 13 years and won a Gold Glove in 1993, and Bobby Felmy, a Shikellamy High grad who was drafted by the
San Francisco Giants after attending the University of Georgia and is now head baseball coach at Shikellamy, both joined the hurlers in teaching kids.
Part of the reason for the clinic was to get the word out about ASA's facility branching out to include baseball because of an agreement with North American Sports Federation.
Along with tournaments and lessons, the clinic fills a need for young ballplayers who see their season come to an abrupt end after Little League ends with plenty of summer remaining.
"We found a need in the area that after the second week of June there is no baseball for the boys," Administrative Director Kathaleen Persing said. "The all-star teams are picked but there are all those young boys that have nothing to do for the rest of the season.
"We were able to create a program for the boys to play in the summer. We thought, we have this brand new training center in Sunbury, so why not have both boys and girls, and it's been a huge success so far."
Nothing illustrated the success of bringing baseball players to a softball space more than Saturday's clinic.
Part of the pros' goal was instilling small focus points that the kids can work on on their own, little things like footwork, and the small, but important, difference in stride length when throwing a breaking ball.
In all there were lessons on pitching, fielding and batting with one-on-one professional guidance.
The retired players were corrective, but encouraging all the way, and with all six cages busy there wasn't a whole lot of down time and both the pros and the kids seemed to enjoy themselves.
"We feel very honored and proud, but we have give that credit to Steve's brother, Kevin Kline, who actually came to us," Persing said, and mentioned that a similar clinic has already been scheduled for next year.
An afternoon session for high school players was expected to bring in nearly two dozen from around the area.