The Inglewood baseball fund brought together professional and youth baseball players at the first annual Community Baseball Festival on January 8 at Junipero Serra High School in Gardena.
“It’s a community festival,” said MLB Hall of Famer Dave Winfield. “There a few places, enclaves around the country that are serious about baseball being part of the DNA of their community and you have it here.”
The festival celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the L.A. Rockstars travel baseball team, a program for youth below high school age. In the past, the L.A. Rockstars has traveled to several places including Las Vegas, New York, and Arizona; the team plays in several tournaments and leagues.
Hall of Famer and 12-time MLB All Star Dave Winfield was honored at the event for his long-time support of the Rockstars.
“His participation carries a tremendous amount of weight,” said Erikk Aldridge, the founder of the travel ball team and the executive director of the Inglewood baseball fund.
The L.A. Rockstars boast a talent-riddled class of alumni. Among them is high school baseball phenom Hunter Greene, a UCLA commit with the option of a high pick in the 2017 MLB Draft.
“We’re helping the kids in the inner cities get exposure to the great game of baseball,” Greene said.
The festival featured clinics for children and a panel for parents. The lineup from the 2013 Serra Cavaliers baseball team were honored for bringing the school its first southern section championship in baseball. Aston Edior noted his experience with the L.A. Rockstars to the Sothern title win.
“It felt tremendous,” Edior said, recalling the championship game. “Playing on Dodger stadium, one of my teammates hit a home run off the foul pole and that dog pile in the middle of their field; it’s the best feeling in the world.”
Dominic Smith was also a member of the division III Southern Section Championship squad. Smith won the 2015 Florida State League Player of the Year award.
“Serra High school is a small-knit, little family. When I went here, we only had about 500-600 kids,” said Smith. “Everybody pretty much knew each other and everybody helped each other become better people.”
The panel for parents discussed the process for prepping a young athlete for college. Motivational speaker and author Ramsey Jay Jr was the moderator.
“Parents and student athletes got together to talk about the things that you have to do to be successful not just on the baseball field, in the classroom, scholarship, financial aid,” Jay said. “We talked a lot about what it takes to be successful in the game of life and using baseball as a vehicle to help you get there.”
The Inglewood Baseball Fund awarded coaches Carl Nichols, Jason McLaughlin, Kevin Martin, and the late Calvin Young with the annual Coaching Impact award. Alan Llorens, Russell Greene, and Michael McKinnon also won the Community Impact award.
“I think baseball is a great sport, teaches a lot of lessons for young people,” Aldridge said. “There are still a lot people that support baseball, played baseball, and aspire to be baseball players in our community.”