Nov. 20, 2005 At 8:45 Saturday morning, nine-year-old Keithroy Charles Jr. was lacing up his cleats and making sure his glove was broken in properly. He did a few stretches, then snatched up a bat and headed out onto the diamond at the Emile Griffith Ballpark to take a few practice swings.
"I really want to be a ballplayer," Charles says, after pretending to hit a home run over the left-field fence.
He smiles and says that hes been practicing even more lately, since his Junior League season has been heating up and he has to play catcher for his team.
"But I still have to work on my skills, so I can be better," Charles says, shielding his eyes from the suns early rays.
Thats why he chooses to come to Griffith Park on Saturday, joining nearly 200 other children his age for an open baseball clinic with three scouts from Major League Baseballs Anaheim Angels.
"We really need more things like this to happen for the kids," Keithroy Charles Sr. says as his son begins drills with other kids on the field. "We need something to encourage kids, take them to the next level so they can see there are opportunities for them."
And thats exactly what the clinic is intended to do, says Angels scout Arnold Brathwaite.
"Im from St. Croix myself," he says, "and I think its important that the kids see that whatever dreams they have about doing this for a living arent far-fetched. Im doing it, and they can too."
Brathwaite says he began coordinating the camp with Housing, Parks, and Recreation Commissioner Ira Hobson two years ago.
"We were talking about how there are not a lot of V.I. youth involved in baseball anymore," Braithwhite says. "At the time, we [the Angels] were already conducting a lot of instructional clinics in other areas on the mainland, so I thought it would be great to bring some of my counterparts down here."
Brathwaite says he also "loved" the idea of developing the kids "passion and drive" for the sport by using the scouts expertise to work on pitching, fielding, batting, and catching drills.
"The foundation is right here," he says. "Most of these kids are already in Little League they want to play, and they just need some support and someone to help them with the fundamentals of the game."
Whats even better, Brathwaite adds, is that the Angels plan to do the camp on a consistent basis.
"We plan on coming every year, and working with the kids so they can reach the level where they can possibly be drafted," he says.
However, since Saturdays camp catered to children from ages 8 to 13, Brathwaite says his organization was also planning to develop a clinic to train older players.
"We wanted to focus on the lower level first, give a little individuality to the younger kids. But we do hope to get something going for the older ones within the next year," he says.
Brathwaite was joined on Saturday by the Angels mid-western scouts Kevin Ham and Ron Marginy both on their first trip to the Virgin Islands.
"I love the enthusiasm these kids have," Ham says as the drills begin to start. "And its not bad to come here and have practice right next to the harbor."
Ham says he also feels it was important to "reconnect the kids to baseball," as the Major League is losing many of its African-American players to other sports like basketball and football.
"We want to inspire them to get back in the game," he says. "But we also want to show them a good time and I know were going to have a lot of fun."
Brathwaite, Ham, and Marginy hosted the clinic on St. Croix Sunday.
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