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Dragons clinic highlight of summer

The kids are back to school. I say it every year: Where did summer go?

We were busy this summer; busier than any summer I can remember. I guess if time flies when you’re having fun, then we must’ve been having a lot of fun.

We traveled, traveled some more and then traveled again. The boys had baseball, Camp Invention, tennis camp and two rounds of vacation bible school in between. We opened our home to long-distance family and friends who wanted to visit. We visited the county fair and went to a couple of Dayton Dragons baseball games.

Because they are Cub Scouts, our sons were also able to participate in the Dayton Dragons scout baseball clinic. They were able to meet players and coaches and even learn from the pros on the field … for about seven minutes because it started pouring rain. Buckets of rain began to fall — much like it did almost every day of June and July this year — forcing the scouts and players off the field.

But the Dragons organization didn’t miss the opportunity to encourage these kids. They were herded into groups in the grandstand where they spent time with coaches and players. They were able to tour the locker room and secret places only the pros know about.

And they listened to the coaches speak. Would the kids have preferred running the bases? Of course, but I have to say, the coaches and players of the Dayton Dragons were quite inspirational and positive. So much so that I was inspired to take notes.

“See the ball. Hit the ball. Run hard. Have fun. And feel the joy,” said head coach Jose Nieves.

“Create a tough mentality, have discipline and respect.”

He continued by telling the group of eager boys that the professional players are just “regular human beings” too, but if they like what they do and are committed to it, they will do well.

“God provided us with many talents,” he said. “Have respect, listen to your parents, teachers and coaches, and have fun!”

I could hardly contain my cheers. “Did a professional athlete really just say that?” I thought.

As the rain continued to pour, the boys moved on to the next grandstand learning station: a chat with pitching coach Tony Fossas.

Cuban-born Fossas came to the United States at the age of 10. He started out throwing a baseball against a wall and ended up with a professional career that included time with the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.

“There is a reason you are here,” he said. “If you want to be good at anything you touch, you have to practice.”

Fossas said he often reminds his players of how blessed they are. “Less than one percent are drafted,” he said. “Whatever you want to do, you have to work hard.”

But he also encouraged the young scouts to enjoy baseball and do it for themselves.

“You don’t have to prove it to your parents, you don’t have to prove it to me,” he said. “But, it is possible, because I did it!”

What a refreshing day in the rain it was with the Dayton Dragons. In three months of summer weather, the day of the Dragons baseball clinic was by far the brightest.

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