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Gwynn, Cruz host clinic for kids
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07/12/2004 12:15 PM ET
Gwynn, Cruz host clinic for kids
Former All-Stars join Nike, Neighborhood Centers Inc.
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Jose Cruz Sr. assists a youngster with his throwing technique. (Brett Coomer)
HOUSTON -- Tony Gwynn and Jose Cruz Sr. have joined with Nike and the Neighborhood Centers Inc. to hit a home run for a community in the Bayou City.

On Monday, the group unveiled a refurbished baseball diamond and played host to a baseball clinic at the Ripley House Field.

Nike also donated $50,000 in baseball equipment and assisted in numerous field improvements, including playing surface, a drainage system, a scoreboard and on-deck circles.

"We're proud to give Houston youth the opportunity to be physically active and the means to do it," said Joaque Hidalgo, vice president of Nike USA Marketing and Brand Management. "All-Star week has kicked off, we're bringing a little of the excitement to these kids today. With the help of two former All-Stars, we're going to provide these kids with a day that inspires them to play baseball and stay active."

A member of the 3,000-hit club, Gwynn played 20 years in the big leagues with the San Diego Padres. Cruz Sr., meanwhile, spent 13 of his 19 Major League seasons in Houston, and helped lead the Astros to NL West division titles in 1980, '81 and '86.

After inaugurating the field, Cruz Sr. and Gwynn offered a fielding and hitting clinic that included a home run derby, a first-to-home competition, and other baseball-related activities to more than 100 children. The field was sponsored by NikeGo, the company's signature community affairs initiative to get children more physically active.

"For us at Nike, we've had an association with baseball for 25 years in footwear, accessories and working with players, and we are very excited to be here," Nike spokesperson Kellie Leonard said. "We are excited about the All-Star Game and we thought this would be the perfect opportunity for NikeGo in Houston."

Neighborhood Centers Inc., the city's largest social services agency, operates five other community centers in addition to Ripley House: Head Start and Early Head Start programs, the Charter School-Ripley Campus, Senior Centers, and Early Childhood Development Centers.

"For our kids and our community, this donation will have an immediate impact," said Neighborhood Centers Inc.'s Joe Martel. "We are very thankful to Nike and to the athletes that are here with us today as our youth will remember this day and this generosity for the rest of their lives. It's not every day you get a training session with the pros and a new field and equipment."

Nike committed more than $10 million in cash and products to get children more active last year.

"This is a great opportunity for us and to bring two great All-Stars like Tony and Jose Sr. together for something special," Leonard said. "We're very excited."

Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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