Former MLB players visit Jamestown
Al Severinsen, who played Major League Baseball for three seasons, became one of the lucky few who fulfilled a childhood sports fantasy when he signed a pro contract. That’s what he told children at the Lawn Avenue ball fields last week.
When his career ended, he was able to say he accomplished something even some of the game’s greats had failed to do – Severinsen played on a World Series team during his one-year stint with the Baltimore Orioles. Although the Birds lost in 1969 to the New York Mets, Severinsen was part of the Fall Classic. Hank Aaron, the longtime home run king, couldn’t say that, he said. The Atlanta Braves never made it to the World Series when Aaron played.
Some of his other dreams never came true, he admitted, but the important thing, win or lose, is to always try your best.
Severinsen, who also pitched for the San Diego Padres in 1971 and 1972, teamed up with two other players from the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association: former Pittsburgh Pirate pitcher John Lamb, who played between 1970 and 1973, and Keith MacWhorter, a Worcester, Mass., native who was a Red Sox hurler in 1980. The trio gave Jamestown youngsters a free baseball clinic on Aug. 15. The players shared some tips about the fundamentals, and put the kids through some drills. Children from surrounding communities were also invited, and one father even drove his child from Connecticut to take a lesson from some old pros.
About 45 children attended, according to Jill Goldstein, program director for the Parks & Recreation Department. This is the first year the town offered the program, which was sponsored by Long- wood Giving, a nonprofit organization that helps other charities reach their fundraising goals. It happened because Bill Wilk, who moved to Jamestown recently, is the executive director of Longwood Giving. Goldstein said he wanted to bring the event to his new hometown.
Since 2011, more than 2,000 children have been treated to the free clinics, which are typically presented in locations where the parent company owns a facility. Longwood Events has a venue in Newport.
Eric Kronebusch managed the day’s activities, which included a cookout. He kept the kids busy around the ball field, which was divided into stations, so they could work on a lot of different skills.
Jamestowner Joe Farrelly, 11, said he enjoyed working on his catching the best, while John Cadwalader, 8, and Adam DiBiase, 11, liked the drills that worked on throwing. Adam says he plays second base and shortstop in Little League.
Zachary DiBiase, Adam’s brother, who is turning 8 in September, and Adam Bush, 7, were also among the islanders who participated in the clinic.
The children – ages 6 through 16 – participated in different exercises, designed to teach throwing, catching, hitting and running the bases. The event was open to girls and boys.
“Make the turn,” Severinsen shouted to the children as they ran down the first base line and rounded the turn to second. “Come on. Keep going.”
The children did their best, and they kept trying hard all the way to the end of the rotations.
After the clinic was over, Severinsen talked about giving baseball – and schoolwork – their best efforts.
“I really am very impressed with a lot of the skills of everyone here,” he said. “It’s making me feel good.”
Severinsen said he loves to see the new generation play baseball.
“I had a dream,” he said. “I wanted to play pro baseball.”
Severinsen said he guessed some of the youngsters also had that dream, but their dreams might not come true.
“We all can’t be lucky” he said, “but we all can work very hard.”
Severinsen never counted on playing baseball professionally. He wanted to become a gym teacher and instruct school children on how to play baseball and football, he said. When he had the opportunity to go pro, he was in college pursuing a teaching career.
He begged his parents to let him sign the pro contract, he said.
“Please let me play baseball. I’ll go back to school,” he promised them.
They let him play, but he broke his promise. Severinsen completed two years of college, but he never graduated. Giving the clinics has become his way of teaching, he said, but his second dream – teaching school – never came true.
“But at least I had the idea,” he said. “If you learned one thing today – one thing you didn’t know before – you’re already improved, which is to your credit. Keep trying your best because not everyone will make it. And you never know. Just give it your best effort.”
He complimented the youngsters on foregoing a day at the beach to make themselves better ballplayers and said he hopes someday he will see one or two of them on television in a Major League game.
“The fact that you’re here shows an effort,” he said. “As long as you’re giving your coaches, teachers and parents 100 percent of your effort, you will all be successful.”
When Kronebusch asked the young players what they learned at the clinic, the children came up with a lot of different answers, including the realization it’s OK to lose.
Also, to not throw sidearm.
“Yep,” he said. “That sidearm thing will ruin your arm.”