Montreal

Kids 'Play Ball' on Big O diamond, celebrate Jackie Robinson's 100th birthday

Young baseball players gathered at the Olympic Stadium to take part in a Major League Baseball event meant to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's birth.

Major League Baseball's event gives kids a chance to play baseball and meet stars

Ken Hill pitched for the Montreal Expos from 1992-1994 and says it's important to give kids a chance to get involved in sports. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

"Go, go, go!"

As Julian Campione's bat makes contact with the baseball, he has to do something he usually doesn't like: run.

"It's a calm sport, I don't have to run that much," the 10-year-old says.

Today though, was an exception, as Major League Baseball teamed up with Jays Care Foundation, Baseball Canada and Baseball Québec to hold a Play Ball event for hundreds of kids.

"It is targeting athletes to expose them to baseball for hopefully for the first time, to get them hooked and have them register for the summer and increase participation," said André Lachance, who is the director of business and sport development with Baseball Canada.

Lachance says baseball is one of the few sports in Canada which has seen growth in the past half decade.

"It's a mix of things that are contributing to that success, but it seems to be working," he said.

It doesn't hurt that the kids get a chance to take the field at an iconic venue like the Olympic Stadium.

"It's something special for them to be playing here," Lachance said.

Kids wait their turn for a chance on the Big O diamond as part of the Play Ball event held by Major League Baseball. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

Celebrating Jackie Robinson

The MLB also took the occasion to celebrate a baseball great, Jackie Robinson.

Born in January 1919, he would have been 100 this year.

The first African American to play major league baseball spent a formative year playing for the Montreal Royals.

On Saturday, his granddaughter Meta Robinson was on hand at the event to celebrate.

"I know that not only did he do well here. but he was embraced here," she said.

"As you can see, Montreal continued to really embrace that legacy and really carry on the work that he has done here."

Meta Robinson is the granddaughter of baseball great Jackie Robinson. She came to Montreal as part of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of his birth. (Sarah Leavitt/CBC)

For Ken Hill, who pitched for the Montreal Expos from 1992-94, Robinson was a hero.

"Growing up, as a player, he paved a way for minorities in the game," he said.

"So I'm just thankful that I had the opportunity to play professionally."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Leavitt

Journalist

Sarah Leavitt is a journalist with CBC Montreal.

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