03/17/08 1:10 PM ET

Baseball for Kids Weekend a big hit

Dramatics conclude memorable weekend in Clearwater
Wade Boggs bats during the Celebrity Home Run Derby and Legends Game on Baseball for Kids Weekend.  (Chris Livingston / MLB.com)
MLB Alumni News
2008 Kids Weekend photo gallery (Part I)
2008 Kids Weekend photo gallery (Part II)

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Talk about a perfect way to conclude Sunday's events at the 2008 Baseball for Kids Weekend benefit at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla.

With two batters on base in a tied ballgame, Kevin Maris, son of Roger Maris, smacked a line drive off former Detroit Tiger pitcher Jon Warden to left field to bring in former Florida Marlins first-baseman Orestes Destrade, helping the National League beat the American League, 3-2, in the Legends Game in front of a crowd of 4,500.

It was a legendary ending from a son of a legend on a day filled with many of Major League Baseball's greats.

"It's a great opportunity to play against and with these legends of the game who were my dad's teammates and opponents so it's really nice to get a chance to do that for All Children's Hospital and Major League Baseball Alumni Association," Maris said. "To be able to sit down and talk about old times and hear about what the game was all about back when my dad was playing is really special. It's nice to hear the stories from some of the best in the game."

Hosted by Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, the Baseball for Kids Weekend to benefit All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. and the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association began on Saturday with a dinner and auction at A La Carte Event Pavilion in Tampa. On Sunday, the day began with an autograph signing at Champs Sports at Tyrone Square Mall in St. Petersburg that included Tampa Bay Lightning star forward Vinny Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia and Boggs.

Then, before the Legends Home Run Derby and Game began, several former players participated in the Youth Baseball Clinic at Bright House Networks Field. The clinic involved 250 kids aged 7-15, who learned baseball skills over a two-hour time period.

"This event was really fun because I learned a whole bunch of stuff," said Alex Jacovides, 9, from Tampa, Fla. "I learned how to hit the ball, to different directions, which way to place yourself when someone is pitching and what to do when you bunt the ball. I had the most fun running the bases and learned a lot about sliding."

After the clinic, legends of the game such as Bob Feller, Jim "Mudcat" Grant, Ron LeFlore, and Gaylord Perry had a chance to reminisce before and during the home run derby. While players prepared for the game with batting practice, conversations about old times in the League could be heard from the likes of LeFlore and Perry. In addition to sharing baseball stories, players also talked about having the opportunity to keep the game of baseball alive and well.

"As long as we are around, the kids will know and be able to see who we are," said LeFlore, who played for the Tigers, Expos, and White Sox from 1974-82. "The parents and grandparents pass everything on and, as long as parents and grandparents expose the kids to the game, then baseball's tradition will be passed down."

In addition to helping bridge each generation, the Legends game also allowed members of the United States Military All-Stars baseball team to rub elbows with some of their heroes.

"This is an amazing opportunity for myself and for all the guys on the team to meet the heroes that we grew up watching play," said Command Master Chief Steve Lennon, who serves as the Director of Baseball Operations for the U.S. Military All-Stars. "It's also a great opportunity to be a part of something like this where we can give back. It improves the crew's morale and it's something of quality that they can be proud of."

In addition to having the involvement of the armed forces, professional athletes from other sports donated their time as well.

"It's always great to get involved and to give back and this is a great way to do it," said former Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott, who has participated in the Baseball for Kids Legends game for the past six years.

Alstott teamed up with Boggs to capture the team competition in the home run derby, defeating former third-baseman and first-baseman Darrell Evans and actor Zachry Ty Bryan. Given points for distance of balls hit into the outfield, the Alstott/Boggs team tallied a total of 4,600 points with the largest result coming on a home run by Boggs on the last swing of the event.

Following the derby, the Legends game featured a mixture of former players, U.S. Military All-Stars and celebrities from music, television and film. A two-time USA Olympic Gold Medalist softball pitcher even made an appearance.

While being a success on the field, the event was an even larger one off the field, raising more than $100,000. The benefit weekend will conclude on Monday with the Baseball for Kids Golf Classic. "I have a passion for trying to find cures for kids and to give them a better quality of life," Boggs said. "When you look around and you see all the athletes who give their support, it's a great tribute to what we can do as professionals. It's a good time for various Hall of Famers who come back for this event. When you look at some of the names who take part in this event, it's amazing." Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Dec. 31, 2016: Visalia Clinic
Legends for Youth Clinics allow the nation's youth to learn from baseball's all-time greats.
Jan. 27-29, 2017: Madrid LFY Coaches Clinics
Legends for Youth Coaches Clinics allow coaches to learn from baseball's all-time greats.
Feb. 3, 2017: Bakersfield Fundraiser
This MLBPAA fundraising event will benefit Wounded Warrior Prospects "Vets Against Cancer."
Complete Event Schedule