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Play Ball! The City Clinics Program kicks off in New York City

Robertson and Murphy

It was a beautiful day for a beautiful cause.

The Players Trust kicked off its 2014 City Clinics program on Friday May 2, under sunny skies in New York City at the Harlem RBI baseball field.

On a beautifully manicured diamond nestled between buildings on East 101st Street, students and staff from the New York Center for Autism Charter School (NYCA) were joined by Major Leaguers John Ryan Murphy, David Robertson and Matt Thornton of the New York Yankees and James Loney and Sean Rodriguez of the Tampa Bay Rays for a day of baseball and a lifetime of memories.

“This is more than baseball,” Julie Fisher, Executive Director of New York Center for Autism Charter School told the more than 100 parents and spectators present during the opening ceremony. “This is about giving these kids something new to experience. It’s about ability over disability.”

“NYCA is a wonderful organization,” said David Robertson. “Programs like these give kids who don’t have as many opportunities to play, but still love the game, a chance. As long as you have fun and enjoy it, that’s all that matters.”

Once the first pitch was thrown from the mound by Matt Thornton, the fun began.

The students, divided by age into seven teams, took the field with the visiting Major Leaguers. After a trip around the bases to loosen up a bit, the students received personal, one-on-one instruction from the players during a game of catch that included ground balls and pop-up drills. Following their fielding practice, the students settled into the batter’s box to face some stiff Major League pitching from the Yankees Matt Thornton and David Robinson.

Helping out along the way were teachers and volunteers from NYCA and Harlem RBI.

As many smiling kids as there were on this day, hitting and running the bases, there were just as many staff members right by their sides cheering them on and high-fiving them as they each crossed home plate.

When asked what one of the biggest surprises of the day was, Matt Thonrton’s first response was, “How many helpers there are. It’s amazing.”

By any measure, the day was a success–filled with smiles, laughs, autographs, t-shirts and photos.

This was the second year in a row the Trust launched its annual City Clinics schedule as part of the NYCA and Harlem RBI “Baseball Extravaganza,” and it likely won’t be the last.

From Harlem, the City Clinics program will make stops in Cleveland, Boston, Minnesota, Denver, Kansas City and San Diego.

City Clinics was created by the Players Trust to help Major Leaguers bring the game closer to underserved populations and to address the dwindling number of African American youth playing baseball. You can learn more about NYCA at www.nycacharterschool.org.

You can check out all the fun we’ve had in our gallery or by following us on Twitter @MLBPlayersTrust and Instagram at MLBPlayersTrust.

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John Ryan Murphy @JrMurphy513

David Robertson @DRob30

James Loney @jamesloney_7

Sean Rodriguez @SeanJRodriguez1