BY MICHAEL HAMMOND | Yankton Press & Dakotan
June 21, 2016 | Kansas City Royals “Pass It On” Clinic
YANKTON, S.D. — The Kansas City Royals’ Pass it On free baseball clinic came back to Yankton on Tuesday and drew a record crowd at Bob Tereshinski Stadium at Riverside Field.
Over 220 kids ranged from ages eight to 18, boys and girls, traveled to Yankton from as far away as Winner and Gregory in South Dakota, Pierce, Nebraska, and Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, to learn skills from former Royals players Dennis Leonard, Les Norman and Tom Burgmeier.
“Attendance by the kids, that’s what drives it,” KYNT’s Curt Dykstra said. “This year is a record year and as long as the kids keep coming out and the kids’ parents keep bringing them, these guys will keep coming back.”
KYNT has sponsored the clinic each year and spreads the word out about it to keep the attendance up each year, attendance is typically between 175 and 200 kids each year.
“To me it looked like the biggest crowd ever,” Leonard said. “The kids are enthusiastic, the people at the station push to get these kids out here, so it’s enjoyable to come up here and try and help kids out.”
Leonard pitched his entire career for the Royals from 1974 to 1986 and took charge to teach the campers the art of pitching.
“You’re dealing with young kids, a lot of the eight and nine-year-olds have not pitched yet, so basically it’s just go out, play ball, and have fun,” Leonard said.
A point Leonard made to the kids is to concentrate on the little things to get better doing the harder things and gave an example of not throwing the ball over your partner’s head while playing catch.
Taking charge of the hitting portion of the clinic was Norman, an outfielder for the Royals in 1995 and 1996. Norman told the kids to not swing for the fences on every pitch or you will not be able to hit the ball and used a clapping exercise to demonstrate how long a major league hitter has to make a decision on whether or not to swing at the pitch.
Burgmeier pitched 17 years in the majors and with the Royals from 1969 to 1973, led the outfield drills by throwing campers pop-flies.
Mount Marty College assistant coach Jason Nelson helped with the catchers and a pair of players ran infield drills, while a group of Yankton high schoolers filled in to help where they could.
“Some of these guys retired, obviously, before [the kids] were born, but with today’s world, they google these guys and see what stats Dennis Leonard had, Burgmeier pitched for 17 years,” Dykstra said. “Even if it’s the 60’s, it doesn’t matter what era, these guys are major league ball players and they were the best at their craft.”
The Campers enjoyed a day of learning from the best and could potentially have a future in the sport themselves.
“It’s a dream that’s achievable, but obviously the odds are pretty stacked against people,” Leonard said. “I grew up in a little town in New York, town of about 8000, and I made it here, Tom Burgmeier is here, he’s from a little town, he’s from Minnesota.
“No matter where you are, you have that opportunity, if you excel a little bit and get some publicity, they will come and find you if you want to play.”