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Retired pros give kids baseball pointers

Published: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 5:30 a.m. CDT
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(Doug Oleson – doleson@shawmedi)
Carmen Pignatiello, a former left-handed pitcher for the Cubs, demonstrates the proper way to grip a baseball during a throwing drill.
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(Doug Oleson – doleson@shawmedi)
Former Dodger Jack Perconte demonstrates the proper way to field a ground ball.
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(Doug Oleson – doleson@shawmedi)
Alec Martinez, 8, Chicago, connects during a hitting drill last Saturday at Sycamore Park.
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(Doug Oleson – doleson@shawmedi)
Wes Chamberlain offers a high five during a base running drill.

SYCAMORE – For Amy Henning, last weekend’s baseball clinic was like Disneyland.

A self-proclaimed “baseball nut,” Henning drove her 6-year-old son, Clayton, from Woodridge to attend the Major League Baseball Players’ Alumni Legends for Youth Clinic at Sycamore Park last Saturday. Clayton, who has been to 16 major league ball parks, was one of 192 children between the ages of 6 and 16 to receive instruction from 14 former major league baseball players, including George Foster, Ron Kittle and Rich Nye.

Ted Rosenow, president of the Crum Halsted Agency in Sycamore, which co-sponsored the free clinic with Hanover Insurance, said the clinic is a nice community event.

“The players are doing a good job interacting with the kids,” he said. “It’s outstanding.”

The 15-minute sessions, divided into age groups, included base running, pitching, outfield, catching, hitting, throwing and infield. Fundamentals were stressed at each one.

“They’re called fundamentals for a reason,” former player Jack Perconte told his groups.

According to Nye, a former Cub pitcher who later became an international expert on wild birds, young players need to know the fundamentals of any sport in order to get better and to enjoy themselves. A player’s attitude on the field, the former Cubs pitcher said, is more important than winning or losing.

“When I played, everyone played for the love of the game,” he said. “Today, the players just play for the money.”

Of course, when Nye played in the mid-1960s, a player’s average salary was $6,000; today, it’s $500,000.

Foster, who drove from Cincinnati to attend the clinic, was impressed with what he saw.

“There are a lot of kids out here who can play,” the former slugging outfielder of the Reds’ famed “Red Machine” said. Both he and Kittle said they enjoy working with young kids. Kittle added that he was the “biggest kid” out there.

After the sessions, there was a short lecture on anti-bullying, followed by an autograph session with the former players, who were all eager to share stories of their past.

Based on Saturday’s turnout, Rosenow is hoping to host the clinic again. Saturday’s clinic was the sixth one this year in a three state region and the first in DeKalb County.

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