With the North Fort Myers Babe Ruth baseball season only a week away, what better way to get ready for the season than to hold a clinic so the kids can learn from the pros.
That's what hundreds of kids and parents did Saturday at North Fort Myers Community Park as members of the Minnesota Twins coaching staff and some of their minor leaguers came to teach the players how to pitch, catch and hit like a pro.
The Twins have been holding these clinics throughout Lee and Collier counties for the past 15 years, and they have always brought out hundreds of kids who not only got to learn the game, but also get a signed ball because who knows if any of these minor leaguers will become the next Bryce Harper.
Chris Simmons does some batting drills at the Minnesota Twins baseball clinic at North Fort Myers Community Park on Saturday.
The clinic has rotated annually from the community park and Donaldson Park on the North/ Cape Coral line.
Brian Maloney, senior manager of operations in Florida and the Dominican Academy, said the clinics are a great way to get involved in the community.
"It gets our guys excited about the upcoming year. We do this over four weekends, with the final one being an open house at Hammond Stadium," Maloney said. "We were at Rutenberg Park earlier in the day and it was opening day, so it was exciting."
The kids loosened up together before being divided into three age groups and sent to their fielding, hitting and pitching stations for 30-minute sessions before rotating to the next.
Among the coaches there to teach was Tommy Watkins, manager of the teams' Cedar Rapids farm club and a Fort Myers native. He has been doing these clinics for years and has always enjoyed it.
"It's neat that we get to go to all the different Little Leagues and spend time with the kids. I love to come back and help out at Riverdale High School as well," Watkins said. "I've been lucky to stay here and spring train."
Alex Kirilloff, who was drafted last season by the Twins and played his first year of pro ball, said this was the first time he has done the Twins camp. That doesn't mean he's a novice at it.
"I've done camps growing up with my dad. He had his own hitting facility so I have the feel for it," Kirilloff said. "I love being around the kids and brightening their day. I get to see things from a different angle."
The children also got to see how the pros train, and they got a lot out of what they were taught.
"I learned a lot on how to improve my pitching. They taught me how to keep my balance and ways to train on that," said Ethan Estes, 12, whose father is president of the league. "It was great to learn from them. They were helpful and kind."
"I had a lot of fun. I learned to hit, and field pop flies and ground balls," Kyle Rische, 8. "It was good for me to learn from them."