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03/22/09 6:22 PM EST
USA works out at Urban Youth Academy
Jeter, Rollins, Granderson, Hawkins address kids after Classic prep
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
COMPTON, Calif. -- When Major League Baseball's Urban Youth Academy opened its doors, in 2006, it could only dream of having baseball superstars put on a show for its young athletes. But the academy has blossomed into one of the finest facilities in the country for youth in the inner cities, and it staged one of its biggest events on Saturday, when Team USA and Japan worked out there in preparation for their World Baseball Classic game on Sunday. Such superstars as Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, David Wright and Jake Peavy participated in the workout in front of a large crowd of young players from Compton Little League and the local Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program. "The Commissioner's initiative is coming to fruition," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations. "Having these guys out here really validates the academy and what it does." And while the young baseball players were in awe of the Major Leaguers working out on the fields, the big leaguers seemed to enjoy themselves as well. "It's great here," said third baseman Evan Longoria, who grew up in nearby Downey. "I like to help out the kids. I think they do a great job of keeping this thing going. It's an awesome facility for kids to ... work and learn the game." The players were especially impressed with the facilities at the academy, which is housed on more than 15 acres on the campus of El Camino College, Compton Center. The academy boasts a 12,000-square-foot clubhouse with a weight room, locker room and other training facilities. "I wish we had a situation like this growing up," said shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who grew up in Oakland and participated in the RBI program. "This is just as nice as most Minor League facilities." After the workout, Jeter and Rollins joined Curtis Granderson and LaTroy Hawkins in speaking to the youngsters about life and baseball. It was a special moment for the young baseball players. "I was thrilled to see those four guys talk to the kids about life and baseball," said the academy's director, Darrell Miller. "It was truly a highlight of my life. If someone wasn't inspired today, then there's nothing we can do." Solomon shared Miller's sentiments and is excited about more Urban Youth Academies springing up across the country. Two are slated to open in Hialeah, Fla., and Houston. "Baseball is taking hold in the community and in a lot of urban areas," Solomon said. "I think this is the start of something fantastic."
Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.