Braves host youth clinic before Civil Rights Game
About 300 children from Atlanta get education in baseball, history
ATLANTA -- The Civil Rights Game has brought several high-profile events to Atlanta this weekend, ranging from awards luncheons at fancy downtown hotels to roundtables at the Carter Center.
But Saturday morning at Turner Field, the academic discussions of the weekend were put into practice. The Braves and L.E.A.D. (Launch Expose Advise Direct) hosted a youth baseball clinic for about 300 children from metro Atlanta.
For two hours, the elementary and middle school kids had the run of Turner Field, taking soft toss in the infield, pitching in the Braves' bullpen, hitting off tees in the batting cages and taking outfield practice in center field.
Morehouse College baseball coach Robert Mitchell said while most of the children probably didn't understand how special their opportunity was Saturday, they would when they were older.
"In the future they'll be able to say they were at the Braves stadium," Mitchell said. "Some of them will probably go on to play as a professional and this right here is what will catapult them on to where they end up. The fact they interacted with other kids from all over the city and state will mean something to them."
Eight Morehouse players, all incoming freshmen, were among the volunteer instructors, which also included former Braves Otis Nixon, Rick Camp and Greg McMichael and members of the L.E.A.D Ambassadors, the organization's high school travel team.
The day ended with lunch and a panel discussion with local members of the African-American community with baseball ties, such as Othello Nelson Renfroe Jr. and Leron Rogers. Renfroe is the son of Chico Renfroe, who played in the Negro Leagues with Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige and Ted "Double Duty" Radcliffe. Renfroe told a story about meeting Paige when he was a child and remembering how long Paige's fingers were.
Nixon said he was glad to see so many young baseball players at the event, where they could learn about both the game of baseball and the history of the civil rights movement.
"They're getting brought into a unit to be on a baseball field, how it feels to be out here trying to catch a baseball," Nixon said. "But also knowing you have to stay in school and the positives things we talk about, getting along whether you're black or white and what is the civil rights movement."
Despite a brief shower near the end of the clinic, L.E.A.D. founder CJ Stewart said the clinic was a success.
Mitchell agreed with that assessment.
"It's amazing that they can put something like this with so many kids," Mitchell said. "I haven't seen any kid out here that didn't have a smile on their face. To them it means so much."
Teddy Cahill is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.