When 9-year-old Jason Smith wrapped up his season as shortstop and second baseman for the Colorado Springs Knights, he had no idea he’d spend his off-season getting tips from National Baseball Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson.
But that’s exactly what happened when Jason and his 6-year-old brother James signed up for some extra help in fielding, hitting, pitching, catching and base running.
The brothers are learning from some of the best. Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson and former All-Star Darrell Evans were just two of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) members who helped with the Legends for Youth skills clinic at the Sky Sox baseball stadium in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
“The kids light up, and there is such a passion in baseball,” said Evans. “I think we have a responsibility to do this, and we love to do it.”
“When I was in the eighth grade,” recalls 14-time All-Star Brooks Robinson, “we had to write a booklet on what you wanted to be when you grew up. I wrote about being a professional baseball player. It has always been my dream.”
Evans and Robinson also helped headline the third annual Heroes Classic, a charity softball game sponsored by the Colorado Springs Sky Sox, Verizon Wireless, Memorial Hospital and the MLBPAA.
The event pitted the Colorado Springs Police Department against the Colorado Springs Fire Department. In addition, each team had injured service members representing the Wounded Warrior Project, along with former Major League Baseball players.
“Earlier, one of the kids told me I was his hero,” said Robinson. “But I said son, I’m not a hero. You are looking at the heroes out here tonight. Police, firefighters, Wounded Warriors – those are the heroes.”
The Heroes Classic raised more than $10,000 through ticket sales, donations and auctions. The funds will be split between three charities: the Police Foundation of Colorado Springs, the Colorado Springs Fire Protective Association, and the Wounded Warrior Project. This year’s fundraiser puts the three-year total for the annual charity event over the $50,000 mark.
Robinson said he was secretly pulling for the fire department since his dad was a firefighter for more than 25 years. In the end, the Fire Team defeated the Police Team with a score of 9-7 in extra innings.
Robinson signed autographs for both James and Jason. The boys say having a 16-time Gold Glove player sign their baseball mitts has to be good luck, both on and off the field.
“I learned that you slow up behind the bag when you are running bases, and that you get under the ball when you are catching it,” said Jason. “When I grow up I want to play for the Colorado Rockies either as a pitcher or shortstop.”
As for James? He took Robinson’s message to heart in a different way. James wants to grow up and become a policeman.