Former Blue Jays put on clinic for young baseball players

Charles Reid
Published on July 29, 2014

Former Toronto Blue Jay Jesse Barfield gives some batting instruction to Campbell Smith during Honda Super Camp, part of the Blue Jays Baseball Academy, Monday in Charlottetown.

©Guardian photo by Heather Taweel

Twin brothers Zach and Ryan Leberge had simple goals for the  Honda Super Camp, part of the Blue Jays Baseball Academy, Monday in Charlottetown.

“Because I really like baseball, I wanted to learn about pitching and hitting,” said the eight-year-old Zach, a mosquito A  player for Northside, adding he’ll use some of what he picked up in his next game. “Yeah, a little. How to stand (when pitching) and how to throw.”

Brother Ryan had similar ideas.

“How to hit, how to pitch,” said Ryan. “I like baseball and wanted to learn.”

All part of the reason for the two-day camp, which features former Toronto Blue Jays outfielders Devon White, Brian MacRae and Jesse Barfield and pitcher Tanyon MacRae.

White and Barfield were mainstays in the Jays outfield for the better part of two decades.

Barfield, a right fielder, wielded a cannon arm from 1981 to 1989, and the speedster White patrolled centre from 1991 to 1995 and helped the Jays win back-to-back World Series in 1992 and 1993. White won a third MLB title with the Florida Marlins in 1997.

White broke into the majors with the California Angels in 1985 and was traded in October 1990 to the Jays along with Willie Fraser and Marcus Moore for Junior Félix and Luis Solo.

White won five Gold Gloves with the Jays (and seven overall) and a .336 post-season batting average for Toronto.

He moved on to the Marlins, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the L.A. Dodgers before finishing his MLB career with Milwaukee Brewers in 2001.

The switch-hitting White retired with a .263 career batting average, 208 home runs, 846 RBIs, 71 triples and 346 stolen bases.

These days, White, 51, works with outfielders for the Chicago White Sox and is happy to return the baseball favours he wished he’d had as youngster.

“You definitely have to give back,” said the native of Kingston, Jamaica. “If I had something like this when I was growing up, I’d have been all over it. We grew up without pros for teachers. We learned baseball from our brothers and fathers.”

The camps began in 2011 with 10 stops and one session in the Maritimes in Halifax.

In 2014, Atlantic stops include Charlottetown, Halifax, Fredericton and Moncton and St. John’s, N.L.

Overall, the tour this year will make 25 stops including the Atlantic sessions. It started in May in Guelph, Ont., and ends in Toronto in August.

Along the way, Jays alumni instructors include Barfield, White, MacRae, MacRae, Lloyd Moseby, Carlos Delgado, George Bell, Tony Fernandez and Cecil Fielder.

Instructors from Baseball Canada and provincial baseball associations will also take part.

Laurel Broten, a Jays fans and former Toronto resident, said for her the camp delivered.

“We’d heard good things about it in terms of skill development,” said Broten. “It seems like it was really well done.”

The camp continues today from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Victoria Park.