WIN clinic a hit for girls, players alike
Event brings out the best in Dodgers and their fan base
LOS ANGELES -- By the end of the softball/baseball clinic, put on by the Dodgers' Women's Initiative and Network (WIN), 150 girls and a handful of baseball and softball stars posed in left-center field for a quick picture.
The moment was likely the only time this group got to rest during Saturday afternoon's clinic.
Jeff Kent started the busy 2-hour clinic by giving an animated speech as a dozen girls, ages 6-14, lined up along the short right-field wall. Out of his "bag of toys," Kent pulled out baseball tool after baseball tool for an impromptu lesson in Baseball Equipment 101.
Soon bats, softballs, baseballs, big gloves, small gloves -- and one pink glove -- were scattered across the outfield. The girls rotated through five stations on fielding, pitching, batting, baserunning and catching.
This was the fifth event of the year for WIN and the second time the clinic took place. Dodgers vice chairman and president Jamie McCourt established the WIN organization in 2005 in effort to develop and expand the Dodgers' female audience.
"We think it's very important to cater to all of our fan base, including women and girls and have them integrated in the game of baseball," McCourt said. "This is an opportunity to see everything about baseball."
On hand for the event were Kent, Eric Gagne, Manny Mota, "Sweet" Lou Johnson and two professional softball players. Players' wives and a group from National Pro-Fast Pitch were also on hand.
Four members of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League also made an appearance. Maybelle Blair, Shirley Burkovich, Katie Horstman and Thelma Tiby Eisen walked around the outfield action, and though there was a noticeable difference in age between them and the girls, the spirit to play was still the same.
"It's a great opportunity for them to get on the field, to get a feel of the grass, to picture the fans in the stands cheering for them," said Blair, who played in 1948. "It's the greatest thrill in the world."
It came close to that for many of the young girls. Ten-year-old Breauna Washington first noticed how big the space was, saying "it was awesome". She picked up a few new catching skills but her favorite part was just standing on the same field where professionals play.
Meanwhile, Gagne started off by teaching key skills but ended up finding out about softball's changeup and sliders.
"I was learning more than giving tips," he said.
It was Gagne's second year involved with the clinic. Kent also participated in a similar program geared toward adult women, and the second baseman continued his long-time support of women's softball.
"Lets face it -- for every single guy out there, whether it's a player, coach or a fan, there is also a woman behind him," McCourt said. "A grandmother, a mother, a sister, a daughter. And the game belongs to them as much as it belongs to everyone else."
"The greatest thing was seeing the girls out there from the all-star team and college," said Janice Murray, wife of Dodgers hitting coach Eddie Murray. "For the girls to see that and know they they can take it further. ... You don't have to be boys to play baseball. There is a place for girls in baseball."
Midway through her fielding drill in right field, Washington crouched down -- just the way Kent taught her to -- and rubbed her small hand along the green grass. Just to get a feel for it.
Elizabeth Aguilar is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.