Already bubbling with momentum from Opening Day ceremonies that brought out more than 300 kids seven days earlier, Little League baseball in Miami Springs got another nice shot in the arm last Saturday, March 8. That’s when nearly 200 boys (and a few girls as well) ages 6 to 14 turned out to enjoy a morning of free baseball instruction from the Cal Ripken Youth Baseball Clinic.
Sponsored by South Florida Chevy Dealers, the clinic is a “traveling road show” of sorts with a dozen baseball instructors setting up four different stations to give kids the basic proper instruction of hitting, infield, outfield and throwing.
Where Miami Springs was privileged was the fact that it served as the only spot in Dade County where the Ripken folks made a stop. The night before they made their only Broward County appearance in Pembroke Pines.
At 1 p.m. last Saturday, the vans were packed up and it was off to Palm Beach County followed by a trip west to Fort Myers this weekend.
“This is our eighth year working with Chevrolet and third year down in the Miami area and it’s always a good turnout and lots of great weather, so it’s been a real nice fit for everyone,” said David Bounds, director of the Ripken Youth Program. “It’s fundamental type of stuff as we try and teach them all of the little things. Baseball is a very complex game and if we can do all the little things right when we add them together, we’re going to find success.”
The company started a little over 11 years ago when brothers Billy and Cal Ripken Jr., longtime Baltimore Orioles and now Hall of Fame shortstop, started it to honor their father Cal Sr., who was a long-time coach for the Orioles, and his legacy. Last weekend represented the first one the Ripken crew was on the road and they won’t stop until late June as they have an estimated 70 to 80 clinics scheduled that will take them as far west as Amarillo, Texas, and as far north as Fargo, N.D.
“We try and make sure we celebrate each individual that’s out there,” Bounds said. “Baseball is a team sport but it’s made up of individuals and each kid out here is a little bit different in some way. If you ever watched Cal Ripken play, you would have seen he had a thousand different stances throughout his career, so we do what’s comfortable for kids finding success his way.”
Chevrolet’s involvment with youth baseball in the Southeast alone has added up to over 60 clinics and the company has been the primary money-generating machine behind the drive to promote youth baseball nationwide.
The man primarily responsible for landing this exclusive event in Miami Springs was travel ball coach and baseball vice president Robert Gonzalez-Pino.
Gonzalez-Pino’s brother-in-law Raul Gandarillas is the general manager of Coral Gables Chevrolet. Not only did Gables Chevrolet make a hefty donation to the Miami Springs Area Little League with donated equipment and uniforms but also contacted the Ripken folks to set things up for Springs to be the Dade County host.
“We feel very fortunate to have the first and only Ripken baseball clinic in Dade County,” Gonzalez-Pino said. “We have kids from Tamiami, Kendall, Doral, Liberty City our here today but the majority of these kids are ours because we tried to keep the sign-ups local until eventually opening it up to others. What a great opportunity for us to not only display our amazing facility because our fields are phenomonal, but at same time develop kids and bring in more talent because our boundaries are so big and we want them to understand that.”
“We were the only ones selected in Dade County, so that was quite an honor and once you get it once, usually it’s a recurring thing, so we’re hopeful we’ll be able to get this back next year.,” said Little League president Otto Camejo. “All of the instructors have been raving not only about our facility but how well-behaved the kids are, so this thing today has been just a tremendous success.”