Martins Ferry youths take part in All-Star festivities
• More than 100 Civics baseball, softball players learn from the stars
CLEVELAND – The smiles were as bright as the sunshine that shone down along the shore of Lake Erie on Monday morning as nearly 60 eager young men from the Martins Ferry Civics raced onto the outdoor field of Play-Ball Park downtown.
But that was just a sampling of the contingent from Belmont County.
As eight big leaguers grabbed their bats down the street at Progressive Field to take their swings in preparation for the the MLB Home Run Derby in the evening, 45 young ladies from the Civics converged on the same diamond to take part on a special clinic organized by Major League Baseball as part of All-Star Week festivities.
“Major League Baseball reached out to us to see how many kids we could get up here,” explained Mike Mistovich, vice president of the Martins Ferry Civics baseball and softball organizations, as he watched his players grin from ear to ear during the morning session.
“We have about 60 youngsters out here now, and then we’ll have about 45 more out here later today.”
An entire timeslot was dedicated solely to Martins Ferry in both instances, allowing each youngster to get the feeling they were on a real big-league field. Joining them in the first session were the Phillie Phanatic, mascot of the Philadelphia Phillies, along with instructors from USA Baseball.
Parents stood just outside the turf playing surface, snapping pictures and encouraging their children along as they fielded balls and took swings with the Cleveland Sports Commission’s downtown baseball festival in full swing around them.
“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to come up and get exposed to what’s going on and, especially being from Eastern Ohio, many teams don’t even see anything like this even near us.”
Tom Regis, president of the Civics, started the ball rolling on the effort, reaching out to MLB last year to see if the Martins Ferry contingent could take part. They only found just recently they would be able to participate, requiring some last-minute planning.
“It’s nice tp see many of the parents were able to bring their kids up here,” Mistovich said. “We tried to get a bus, but it was just too short notice.”
Many of the youngsters and their families took in Sunday’s celebrity softball and futures contest – also conducted at Progressive Field, which will play host to the crown jewel event, the 90th All-Star Game, tonight.
“I know my kids were pumped last night and we came and watched the celebrity contest and the futures game,” Mistovich said. “And I know the parents were pumped all last week asking questions and seeing if we could come up and fun up here.”
Players ages 4-14 participated in the event, which was conducted to help foster the growth of the sports of baseball and softball throughout the nation. MLB has been conducting numerous events throughout the Cleveland area the past week.
“They were very excited to be up here and have the opportunity to do this,” Mistovich said. “It’s something new to a lot of these kids.”
And certainly, a moment they won’t soon forget.