Marlins Park hosts Legends for Youth clinic

Alfonseca, Arias among former ballplayers who participated in event

Marlins Park hosts Legends for Youth clinic

MIAMI -- In front of 30 or so wide-eyed kids, Antonio Alfonseca extended his arm and flashed a two-seam fastball grip in the right-field bullpen of Marlins Park.

The former Marlins reliever and 1997 World Series champion was one of seven former Major Leaguers who participated in a free Legends for Youth baseball clinic for more than 160 local youth players hosted by the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) on Saturday.

The crop of ex-big leaguers -- which combined for 44 seasons, 1,842 games, 62 wins and 142 saves -- included fellow 1997 World Series champion Alex Arias, Hector Almonte, Bill Hurst, Terry McGriff, Rusty Meacham and Brad Pennington. They took the kids through a variety of hitting, fielding, pitching and outfield drills.

Alfonseca, a native of the Dominican Republic, said he didn't have these sorts of opportunities growing up. It's why he jumped at the chance to partake in the event.

"I played in the big leagues. I want any kid here to make it to the big leagues," Alfonseca said. "I'm happy when I teach these kids."

Long toss, icing, conditioning and pitch grips were all topics the 11-year veteran reliever touched on. It wasn't long before kids began asking him how hard he once threw and how many saves he had. His responses -- 100 mph and 45 saves one season -- wowed them.

"Anything," Alfonseca said of what he preached the most Saturday. "What I did before, I can teach them."

Arias, on the other hand, offered a more specific piece of advice for the young athletes.

"I always tell them you've got to be mentally prepared all the time," Arias said. "Respect the game, respect your coaches, respect your teammates, and if you do that, you'll be fine."

An 11-year veteran infielder, Arias didn't have the luxury of practicing with former players in a Major League park either. The New York native said his goal is similar to Alfonseca's: Help get these kids to the bigs.

"They're blessed. I wish I had that opportunity," Arias said. "I just got to give them a little bit of my advice and hopefully they can get there."

One young player who took Arias' drills and advice to heart was Alejandro Hernandez. The 16-year-old infielder and Miami native said he hopes to take what he learned with him and implement it on the field.

"The number one piece of advice I learned today is, 'Stay confident and believe in yourself,'" Hernandez said. "Because if you believe in yourself, then you can achieve."

MLBPAA's Legends for Youth clinics connect with more than 16,000 children each year, allowing them the unique opportunity to interact with and learn from players who have left a lasting impact on the game of baseball. The MLBPAA has reached children across America and internationally in Australia, Canada, China, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Nicaragua, the United Kingdom and Venezuela, through the Legends for Youth clinic series.

Patrick Pinak is a reporter for based in Miami. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.