Youth baseball clinic: ‘It’s all about the kids’ |

Youth baseball clinic: ‘It’s all about the kids’

Colorado native Mark Knudson, right, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who finished his career with the Colorado Rockies, instructs a youngster during Saturday's Legends for Youth baseball clinic at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel. About 60 kids participated in the free clinic, hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.
Austin Colbert / The Aspen Times |

Brian Fisher probably expected the boos. After all, one doesn’t simply walk into the heart of the Rocky Mountains wearing New York Yankee pinstripes and escape without a few jests thrown his or her way.

Fisher, a Colorado high school graduate who spent seven years playing Major League Baseball (including two with the Yankees), was simply offering what he said was the secret to becoming a major leaguer: Root for the Yankees.

Nearly all 60 of the children, many of whom wore the familiar insignia of the Colorado Rockies baseball team, didn’t agree with Fisher’s suggestion and let him know it in force.

It was all part of the fun and games, however, Fisher being one of six former MLB players to volunteer his time Saturday at the Legends for Youth baseball clinic at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel.

Free clinic

Sponsored by Alpine Bank and organized by the MLB Players Alumni Association, the free clinic made its seventh appearance in the Roaring Fork Valley.

“We are happy to be a community partner and help the youth out with former major leaguers visiting our valley for a day for a free camp,” said Tony Thompson, president of both of Basalt’s Alpine Bank locations. “Guys I grew up watching are here teaching our youth. It’s hard to describe how special this really is.”

The baseball alumni association hosts 150 free clinics worldwide each year, all coached by former MLB players.

Saturday’s clinic in El Jebel was the second of three scheduled for Colorado this summer, the first having been held in Denver last week with another set for Aug. 13 in Colorado Springs.

The main draw to Saturday’s clinic at Crown Mountain Park was the presence of 15-year MLB veteran and former Silver Slugger Greg Vaughn.

Vaughn, a California native, played for five teams during his career, was a four-time all-star and known for his prowess at the plate.

He hit 50 home runs during the 1998 season; the same season St. Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire broke what was then the MLB home run record.

Giving back

“It’s all about the kids for me. God blessed us to play this game, but he also blessed us to give back,” Vaughn said. “Sometimes you can say one thing to these kids and it makes a difference for the rest of their life. You can influence them.”

The 60 boys and girls in attendance were divided into six groups by age and spent approximately 15 minutes at six stations, each taught by a different MLB alumnus.

Afterward, the kids were given baseballs to be autographed by the former players, including Bob Knepper, Steve Blateric, Mark Knudson and Gary Krug.

“It’s just a lot of fun. Kids have so much energy and you feed off of it,” said Knepper, a two-time all-star pitcher who now lives in Monument. “I can actually remember when I was a kid in Northern California, there was something similar put on, I think by the San Francisco Giants. They had five guys come up and put a clinic on and that made a big impact on me as a young kid growing up.”

As successful as the clinic was Saturday, there is hope to see it grow in the future. Thompson said as long as the numbers continue to add up, the Major League Baseball alumns presence in the valley should continue to flourish.

“As long as we can, it’s something I would like to keep going,” Thompson said. “I’ve been involved with baseball in some form all my life, and I’m very blessed that we can contribute enough to get these guys here and have something really special for our valley that only happens once a year.”

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