Over the weekend, Major League Baseball held it’s first Play Ball Weekend. All 30 clubs hosted activities that celebrated baseball and encouraged kids to get involved with the game. But one of the coolest events took place Saturday in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Dodgers Dream Foundation teamed up with Play Ball to host a Wiffle ball game on Venice Beach for 60 kids from the Venice Boys and Girls Club. The kids were also surprised by an appearance from Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner and outfielder YasielPuig. The big leaguers joined in the game, pitching and batting against the kid players. At the end of the day, all the kids received their own Wiffle ball set to keep the game going at home.
“This shows that you don’t need a field to play America’s national past time,” said Nichol Whiteman, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. “You don't have to be the competitive kid that plays on the field and wants to become a Major League Baseball player, but just engaging in the sport can be really fun and exciting.”
The Play Ball initiative hopes to motivate more kids to play the game in any from and any place — be it baseball or softball on a field, stickball on the street, or Wiffle ball on the beach.
On Saturday, the kids arrived in the morning by bus happy to be at the beach and to play Wiffle ball with the Dodgers Foundation representatives. For some of them, like Andrew, this was the first time playing the sport. He said he hoped it would be fun.
After the teams were picked and some shoes were taken off, the kids began playing. Then time out was called and the game was interrupted with the surprise of the two Dodger stars, Turner and Puig. The kids were very excited, and Turner and Puig both seemed like big kids just having a fun time with friends at the beach.
Puig and Turner also entertained the crowd with Puig pitching to Turner. “This catcher is asleep,” joked Puig when he threw a ball. “Hashtag, Puig No Pitch,” Turner joked back. Then when Turner complained about a called strike, Puig said, “Yeah, like the umpire last night.” Turner responded with a bomb of a homer, flipped his bat, and the game was over.
“When I was a kid, we were out all the time playing Wiffle ball, playing sports, doing whatever we can outside,” Tuner said. “Nowadays, it's not always the popular thing to do. So to get [kids] out here on the beach and see how much fun they're having, hopefully we can encourage them to do it more often and learn to love the game and hopefully breed some future Major Leaguers.”
And when asked, why should these kids get involved with the game of baseball? Turner said, “It's just great for life skills. You know it's not just a game you learn. You learn teamwork and you learn how to deal with failure and you learn how to work with people and make new relationships … meet new people and communication skills.”
Puig said the day was “ awesome.” And when asked what’s the best part about baseball, he added, “To have fun and win the World Series.”
As for the kids, Sebastian said he liked hitting best, while Curtis said Justin Turner was his favorite player. “It was very fun to meet him. It’s good.”
The Dodgers and Play Ball scored at showing kids how to have fun playing ball at the beach. And they might have even inspired future major leaguers — or a future journalist or commentator.
Photos and video: Max Ferregur