CLEVELAND — Some kids in Cleveland got an opportunity of a lifetime Thursday to sharpen their baseball skills with help from a former Indians star.
Former designated hitter and first baseman Travis Hafner teamed up with Cleveland-based non-profit The Hope Exchange to bring a baseball clinic to kids from some of the city’s underserved neighborhoods.
Thursday’s clinic at Historic League Park was the second Hafner and the organization put together. The first was held in summer 2020.
“It was definitely something that we wanted to do again this year and it's been awesome to have League Park as the facility we get to use and it's been a great turnout,” said Hafner. “It's just fun to be out here with the kids.”
The clinic featured four mini-camp sessions with a Q&A and autograph session with Hafner afterwards.
The Hope Exchange and Hafner wanted to ensure that kids who typically wouldn’t be able to take advantage of such an opportunity could attend.
“We worked with the recreation centers all around downtown to recruit kids who either have been discouraged by baseball before, or really want to grow and learn,” said Megan Klint, executive director of The Hope Exchange. “An event like this would fill up so quickly and so we reserved those spots for the inner city kids in partnership with the recreation centers so that they can have a chance to be here.”
One of those kids is 11-year-old Keilin Payne, who is a multi-sport athlete.
“I play baseball, basketball, soccer, football, swimming and volleyball.
He said he spends almost every day at Earle B. Turner Recreation Center in the city’s Union-Miles neighborhood.
“It keeps me out of trouble to get something to do after school and not being out in the streets doing bad things, getting in trouble, going to jail,” Payne said.
His coach, DeCarlo Stubbs, encouraged him to attend the clinic.
Payne and his friends worked on a number of drills, including running the bases, catching, picking up ground balls, and hitting a perfect home run.
“We want to move them around, get a lot of reps in and just give them a few basic fundamental things that they can work on once they leave here,” Hafner said.
Stubbs said his kids are already familiar with those drills, but events like Thursday’s clinic make them feel brand new.
“Most kids really don't get experiences like this. So, just bring them out. Let them have fun. It's a learning experience and it boosts their confidence,” Stubbs said.
Payne said he will take the lessons learned at the clinic to his practices at the recreation center.
“A lot of people can't even do these things because they don't have a home, they don't have the money. So I’m just very grateful,” Payne said.
Rebol provided 300 meals for the kids attending the clinic.
Journey Church sponsored supplies for the event, as well as provided the volunteers and coaches.
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