Martin's visit highlights youth camp's first day

Martin's visit highlights youth camp's first day

LOS ANGELES -- Growing up in Ontario, Dodgers catcher Russell Martin used to go to youth baseball camps held by the Expos. So he knew how the 135 campers taking instruction from the Dodgers coaching staff Tuesday felt when he came out on the field at the end of the first Dodgers Youth Baseball Camp session of the season and talked with the group.

Martin was asked the usual questions, like what ballplayers did he look up to growing up. The answer: Ozzie Smith and Ken Griffey Jr.

"I love it," Martin said. "The kids, they just, they make you smile. You just see how happy they are just to be there. I remember how it was growing up, I've had that opportunity. It's like 'Wow, man, to talk to them is crazy.'"

For nearly five hours Tuesday, youths ages 7 to 12 took instruction in the Dodger Stadium outfield and bullpens from the likes of Rick Honeycutt, Mariano Duncan and Larry Bowa and bullpen catcher Rob Flippo. "Sweet" Lou Johnson and Kenny Landreaux were out, too, and many others will participate over the next three days of the camp's first four-day session. A second session will be held in August.

All proceeds from the camp, which is in its seventh year, benefit the Dodgers Dream Foundation. Twenty campers from Para Los Ninos were in camp on scholarships provided by Kaiser Permanente, the camp's presenter. Para Los Ninos is a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that provides child care, schooling and other services to more than 9,000 at-risk children and their families.

There were tees, baserunning drills and pitching stations set up, and the campers rotated every so often so they could hone multiple aspects of their skills. Games between the campers start Wednesday, when Andre Ethier is to speak to the group. James Loney is to come out Thursday.

"Any time I can help in the community, I love to do it," said Duncan, who's been involved with the camps since he joined the Major League staff in 2006. "The Dodgers do so much. I teach these kids the same way I teach the big league players."

Eleven-year-olds Nathalie Velazquez and Ana Santiago both attend a Para Los Ninos charter school and were taking pitching lessons with Honeycutt before Martin came on the field.

"I'm a Dodgers fan; I love to watch them play, win not lose," Velazquez said. "The best part of the day was throwing."

"Kaiser Permanente provided the scholarships for these 20 kids to come to this," said Para Los Ninos director of corporate fundraising Avery Bell. "It's a real treat for these kids to be out here."

Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.