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To a man, the Team USA members were struck by the quality of the fields and facilities at Compton Community College.

Rollins said the locker room was at least the equivalent of a minor-league clubhouse. Jeter told the kids they were "pretty spoiled" to have such well-groomed fields, recalling that he drove his parents crazy throwing a ball against a wall growing up in Kalamazoo, Mich.

Even white players such as Ryan Braun were stirred by the moment. Compton produced major leaguers such as Eric Davis, Darryl Strawberry and Coco Crisp, but in recent years became better known for gang violence. Braun, preparing to take batting practice, volunteered to a reporter, "This is a good thing."

Team USA hosted players from the newly formed Compton Little League and the urban youth academy's Jr. RBI (Revitalizing Baseball in Inner Cities) program. The question-and-answer session followed the workout.

Aldridge, a coordinator of the Jr. RBI program, prompted the players to explain specific baseball skills. He also mentioned their backgrounds and asked them to speak about their life experiences.

Rollins talked about switch-hitting and playing shortstop. Jeter talked about baseball as a game of failure and the importance of learning from mistakes. Hawkins talked about the value of education and hard work.

Yes, this is where it starts.

Many other black stars — Derrek Lee, Torii Hunter and CC Sabathia; Vernon Wells, Ryan Howard and B.J. Upton — also are eloquent spokesmen.

Virtually all of them say they are willing to do more to encourage greater black participation in baseball.

The impact would be immeasurable; the players' stories are that powerful.

"LaTroy Hawkins is from Gary, Ind.," Granderson said afterward. "That's one of the top five crime cities every year, very similar to here in Compton. But he came out of it. He disciplined himself enough to make the right decisions to be able to play this game."

That is the message. That is the idea.

The revival of baseball in inner cities will not happen in a short period of time. It might never happen in the way that baseball desires.

Saturday, though, was a step forward. And in this effort, every step matters.


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 22, 2009

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News » Team USA members reach out to youths


Team USA members reach out to youths


Team USA members reach out to youths
COMPTON, Calif. - Saturday was a great day for baseball in America, and Team USA did not even play.

For Major League Baseball to fulfill its mission of reviving baseball in inner cities, this is how it has to start:

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