Big Papi hosts hitting clinic for kids

Big Papi hosts Power Hitting Clinic for Kids

WEST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Baseball's most potent run producer remembers what it was like to be a kid trying to learn how to hit a baseball.

With the help of his hitting coach and his batting-practice pitcher, David Ortiz used his day off Thursday to teach 150 kids about the fine art of hitting a baseball and having fun hitting it hard.

"We all are going to teach you how to hit the ball, hit for power and how to keep the smile on your face," Ortiz told the group, while showing off his trademark ear-to-ear grin, adding later, "I love having fun with kids. I have three."

The students, ages 7-12, listened closely during the first Big Papi Power Hitting Clinic for Kids at the Extra Innings batting cages some 25 miles south of Boston.

A second clinic for ages 7-17 will be held Friday morning between 9 a.m. ET and noon, also at the West Bridgewater facility. Presented by Papa Gino's and D'Angelo Sandwich Shops and in association with Vitaminwater and Smartwater, Ortiz used the clinics to give instruction on the mechanics of hitting, including bat grip, stance, trigger, swing and follow-though.

"One thing I had to figure out myself was how to hit the ball at that age," said Ortiz, whose trademark crouch at home plate is being imitated by young hitters all over Red Sox Nation. "I was standing up too much."

Alex Wolfe, a 10-year-old boy who suffers from neuromuscular degeneration, happened to be one of the lucky ones to get a lesson from the big-league leader in home runs (34) and RBIs (95). Sandy Wolfe, the boy's mother, said her son had been looking forward to Thursday ever since finding out about it one day at Children's Hospital.

"We live out in Medway, Mass., and we found out about it through Children's Hospital, since he is a patient at Children's in the neurology unit," she said. "They know he's the biggest Red Sox fan ever and they asked if he were coming and we looked into it and as soon as we found out about it, we signed him right up.

"He was ecstatic, so excited. It's wonderful and a great opportunity. It's amazing that David Ortiz is doing this, considering he flew all night long. I think he's a hero to a lot of kids because he's not only an amazing baseball player and power hitter, but he gives so much back to the community."

Another big winner was the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, which received 10 tickets to each session as a donation to be used by its members.

Despite getting back in Boston from Oakland early Thursday morning, Ortiz used several hours of his day off to show future baseball stars how to hit.

"When I was that age, I did a lot of thinking about how can I hit a baseball. There's a lot of people who tell you how to do it, but I never had the opportunity to see a pro doing it," Ortiz said.

"We try to tell our child it's wonderful to be a celebrity and everybody knows you when you're walking down the street," Sandy Wolfe added. "But look at what he's doing today. He's giving up one of his very few days off and all of this is going to end up going to charity and benefiting these children and other children."

Assisting Ortiz were Red Sox hitting coach Ron "Papa Jack" Jackson and Ino Guerrero, a member of the Red Sox staff.

"The biggest thing is that these [kids] are getting a good, solid foundation," Jackson said. "In anything you do, you have to start from the bottom and work yourself up. I didn't get the opportunity when I was growing up to listen to someone like David. But we're not out here to babysit. We're out here to teach. We want to put [guidance] back into the game like someone helped us out along the way. That's what we're doing. Putting back into the community and helping out."

The staff of Extra Innings awarded Ortiz with a lifetime membership and offered their assistance down the road, should he ever decided to stop by and work out the kinks.

"I always need help with my swing," Ortiz said, again sporting his trademark smile.

Mike Petraglia is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.