Oneida, NY – It’s not every day that a retired Major League Baseball pitcher finds himself in central New York, but today was one of those days. Oneida Youth Sports Improvement held its first Major League Baseball Experience Day at the Oneida High School Varsity Field with special guest, retired Major Leaguer, Bret Saberhagen.
Saberhagen pitched at the professional level from 1984 to 2001 for the Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, Colorado Rockies, and the Boston Red Sox. He had a career 3.34 earned run average and 1,715 strikeouts over 16 seasons. Saberhagen is a two-time Cy Young Award winner, a three-time All-Star, and the World Series MVP in 1985. He is also a member of the Kansas City Royals Hall of Fame.
Bret Saberhagen was invited to headline the “Major League Experience Day” at Oneida High School on Saturday, by the Oneida Youth Sports Improvement Organization. “Oneida Youth Sports Improvement (OYSI) is set up to make a positive impact on the culture of youth Sports” said OYSI chairperson Brendan Farnach. “We want to help create an environment that gives more kids an opportunity and an equal opportunity for all.”
In trying to spread the word on their organization, OYSI decided that they needed to do something big for their first event, and the MLB Experience Day was just that.
“We decided that it would be really fun to have an MLB Experience Day, and the only way to do it was to bring in an MLB player” said Farnach. “Bret has been great, he is really a youth sports supporter and he has been helpful in this event that has based around him.”
Around 65 kids from the Oneida community and surrounding areas signed up for a chance to share the field with a baseball legend. The day was divided into three parts, first Saberhagen threw batting practice to a group of 25 kids. That was followed by an hour long pitching clinic, and then Saberhagen finished the day signing autographs and taking pictures with everyone in attendance.
“It is always great when you come to events like this to try to instill some knowledge in some of the kids” said Saberhagen. “If they could pick up one or two things that we talk about, then that will help them go out and better baseball players.”
To Saberhagen, events like these are about more than just teaching the youth about baseball. He does all he can to teach some life lessons along the way. “I tell all the kids, even at an early age, that you have to fail to succeed” said Saberhagen. “You have to really want it. Sometimes if you fail, you have to really dig down and get better at whatever it is that you are doing. It doesn’t matter what it is in life that you want to do, you just have to go out and work for it.”
When it was time to hit the field and start playing ball, the kids couldn’t be happier that they had an opportunity to be a part of something like this.
“This is so cool” said the first batter of the day, Brandon Amuso. “It is really a good thing for him to come do this event for us.”
You would think that stepping in the batter’s box against a pitcher like Saberhagen would be nerve racking, but many were up to the challenge today. Little Leaguer Gavin Sweet didn’t waste any pitches during his at bat, and hit two home runs off the retired pro in the ten pitches that he saw.
“I feel like I could be in the MLB right now!” said Sweet after his at bat. “This is so awesome and such a great opportunity for us.”
That feeling was in the minds and hearts of all the kids in attendance today, as they tried to get as much as they could from the experience.
“It is always nice to have an experience with a MLB player” said Webb Potter, who had the chance to catch for Saberhagen during batting practice. “He is one of the best pitchers ever and he is able to teach us a lot about baseball.”
Farnach also added that an event like this wouldn’t be possible without the help of the entire organization, volunteers, parents, kids, and their sponsors. All Seasonings and Cinderella’s Café were two proud sponsors of this event. All Seasonings would donate $50 for every home run hit during batting practice to a charity of the hitter’s choosing.
One of Saberhagen’s fondest memories was pitching in the World Series and having the honor of taking home the World Series MVP. With the right state of mind, anything is possible. Maybe one day an attendee of this clinic could help their team win a championship of their own.