CHESAPEAKE, VA (WTKR)- Many athletes from Hampton Roads have gone onto the pinnacle of the respective sports. Former Major League Baseball standout Michael Cuddyer is just one example as the former Great Bridge star never hesitates to contribute to his community.
The Chesapeake native was out at his alma mater on Sunday, hosting a USA Baseball Homegrown Clinic for kids ages 5-12. This program offers young players a chance to learn the game in a fun, non-competitive, stress-free environment. Cuddyer remembers going to a clinic at Old Dominion when he was young that left him motivated.
"Hank Aaron was the clinician," Cuddyer recalled. "He made a profound statement to me and it was a very simple statement. He said he swung the bat 50 times a day when he was our age. I wanted to be better than Hank Aaron, so I started swinging the bat 100 times a day."
Cuddyer may not have been better than Hammerin' Hank, but he still ended up being pretty good, putting together a 15-year Major League career with the Twins, Rockies and Mets. He won a Silver Slugger Award and was named an All-Star during his big league tenure. Now he's looking to have the same impact on the next generation.
"If they can hear one thing like that that will help them, great," Cuddyer said. "If not and they just come out here and enjoy the sunshine, that's even better."
The former Wildcat is not necessarily looking to shape the next Major League star. His main hope is to simply plant the seed of loving America's pastime.
"What my goal is is that when these kids are 20, 23, 25, 28 years old, they still want to sit down and watch a game," he said. "That's our goal."
He's spreading that message in his own backyard, at his old high school in his home city. It's his way of saying thank you to the many people who helped him during his climb to the top of the sport.
"Knowing that we're passing the torch and that we're continuing to try and inspire like they inspired me, that's the best way I can think of to say thank you," Cuddyer pointed out.
Sunday was a fun day for young players. They got the chance to play baseball, learn the game, ask a former Major League star some questions and get autographs and pictures. Throughout the process, Cuddyer, who may be a big kid at heart, had a lot of fun as well.
"Being able to see the true enjoyment that these kids are having out here just playing the sport, running around, it didn't matter if we had a baseball or a soccer ball in our hand, they were going to have fun and that's where I get the most enjoyment."