Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo hasn’t taken MLB’s “Let The Kids Play” slogan lightly.
Earlier this summer, over two dozen Chicago-area Little League baseball players gathered at Bash Sports Academy in Avondale for the 2019 Canon Little League Baseball Minicamp.
The kids attended the camp expecting to improve through hitting, throwing and fielding drills.
What they didn’t expect was that Rizzo would be one of the instructors.
The Little Leaguers’ shock showed as Rizzo emerged from behind a backdrop with one excited player shouting, “You’re my favorite one on the Cubs. You’re my favorite player on the Cubs.”
Once the commotion died down and Rizzo explained what the attendees would be doing, he asked and answered his own question: “What’s the most important thing about baseball? Have fun, no matter what.”
“That’s what it’s all about,” Rizzo said. “Some people are better than others at being able to throw a ball, catch a ball or hit a ball. It doesn’t mean they’re a better person than them just because their skill set is a little better. If someone isn’t having as much fun as you, try to get them as much fun. Every day, every moment is a great time.”
Rizzo and the Cubs will play the Pittsburgh Pirates in the MLB Little League Classic Sunday in Williamsport, Pa.
The Little Leaguers came from the Minor Reds, Minor White Sox and Minor Red Sox teams at Horner Park. Each player got their team hat signed by Rizzo. Two girls — one from the Minor Reds and Minor White Sox — attended the camp and participated in the drills.
Rizzo said it was important to have boys and girls in the camp together.
“It’s important because softball is just as big as Little League,” Rizzo said. “Growing up in a team environment, pretty much everywhere you work in life, it’s a team environment you’re working with and it’s about interacting with others. Whether you’re playing baseball, softball or any other sport, it’s important to have that team aspect of winning together and losing together.”
Rizzo tried to help reinforce the fundamentals during the camp. He showed the players some techniques he uses when fielding and where he tries to hit the ball while hitting off the tee.
Rizzo said Little League coaching is up to par and better than when he was a kid.
“I don’t remember as good of coaching when I was younger as far as the fundamentals of how to step and throw the right way and how to field a ground ball the right way,” Rizzo said. “It’s good to see that they are being taught the right way. Everything is just more advanced. It’s a lot easier to access the right way to do things. It’s nice to see.”