For Budding Stars, Field of Dreams
LOWELL -- Jonatan Torres, 10, of Lowell, cracked a line drive as Lowell Spinners Manager Corey Wimberly tossed batting practice for a group of young boys who were part of a youth training camp at LeLacheur Park Thursday afternoon.
Spinners players Nick Northcut, Oddanier Mosqueda, Hunter Haworth, Victor Garcia, and Ramfis Berroa stood in the infield to shag balls hit their way.
Then Torres cracked Wimberly’s next pitch, too, as well as the third. When the third line drive knocked over a bucket of balls near pitcher’s mound, the five Spinners players erupted in cheers as Torres grinned at the plate.
Torres and 12 other local boys between 8- and 12 years old were taking part in the camp thanks to Eastern Bank and the Greater Lowell Boys & Girls Club.
And the boys brought good gloves to go with Torres’ good bat.
Jaquawn Williams, 13, of Lowell, drew more loud cheers from players as he successfully made an overhead catch on an infield fly popped up by one of his fellow youths.
The batting practice came after the boys and the players did warm-up drills on the field at LeLacheur and played catch for a while.
Afterward the boys got official Major League Baseball baseballs signed in blue ball-point pen by retired Red Sox legend David Ortiz courtesy of Eastern Bank since Ortiz is one of the bank’s “Partners for Good.”
The boys arrived at the field from the Greater Lowell Boy’s & Girls Club, and later enjoyed a BBQ dinner and the Spinners’ game against the Tri-City ValleyCats. Giacomo Berardinelli, 10, of Burlington, got to throw out the game’s first pitch since his name was drawn from a hat during the training camp.
Riley Johnson, 11, of Dracut, plays centerfield for his baseball team in Dracut and attended with his mom Lindsay Johnson.
Riley said the camp taught him that “whatever you’re doing, you should try your best.”
Jacob Madruga, 9, of Dracut, attended with his dad, Mike Madruga, and said his favorite part of the camp was taking batting practice.
“It was awesome,” he said of the camp.
Eastern Bank sponsored the camp as part of its efforts strengthen the places it serves as a community bank.
The camp was Eastern’s first, but the Spinners hold similar camps and baseball clinics around the region, often sending bilingual players into communities like Lowell and Lawrence to interact with kids.
Spinners’ General Manager Shawn Smith said the players and club try to help kids realize there are opportunities and jobs in baseball not just on the field, but in the stands and front offices as well.
He said it’s nice for the kids to get some exercise while also learning that the players are on a path toward success that can apply just as well to graduating or going into business as it does to baseball.
“If our guys can help inspire or at least light a little spark in these young men to realize you’ve gotta work hard to get to the next level, whatever the next level may be, then we’re doing our job,” Smith said.
Smith said the players benefit as well, especially since many of them were young men themselves not too long ago.
“They see their ability to give back and have fun,” Smith said. “To be able to see a smiling face that doesn’t care about the win/loss record -- that just cares about how well they’re being treated and that guys are spending their time with them -- that means a lot to our guys as well.”
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