GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s not every day that you get to meet a pro athlete, let alone get to learn from one of the best to ever play in South Mississippi.
Former Harrison Central standout and current Cleveland Indians first baseman Bobby Bradley hosted his fifth annual baseball camp Saturday in his hometown of Gulfport - a completely free event for over 100 kids in attendance.
“Coming up in this community, not too many people athletic-wise go pro," Bradley told WLOX. "Coming back, giving back to the community, things like that - I’ve always wanted to come back and put smiles on kids’ faces.”
From pitching to hitting, Bradley spent time teaching the fundamentals of the game that made him one of the best hitters ever at Harrison Central. The camp not only is his way of giving back, but a reminder of never forgetting where he came from.
“Putting myself in other people’s shoes, not getting too far ahead of myself no matter what level I’m at, no matter what I’m doing – not putting myself over anybody else," he said.
It’s a full team effort as many sponsors, family members, and Harrison Central baseball staff and team pitch in to help. Kids got to interact with several minor leaguers as well, like Picayune native Braxton Lee, who’s working his way up in the New York Mets farm system.
“I give hitting lessons in the off-season, and it puts so much joy into me whenever I see a kid smile when you say swing this way, or throw this way, and they look and they’re excited - run back and tell their friends," Lee told WLOX. "That’s the most fun part about it.”
And the impact it has on the kids cannot be understated.
“Just how dedicated both of them were,” said one camper.
“Well, everything I liked is really awesome. Batting, catching, pitching,” said camper and Bradley’s second-cousin, Drake Clark-Dennis.
“For us, coming each of the four years it’s been here, I feel like it’s a great thing for them to be helping us to get better," another camper said.
“At the end of the day, I just want to make other people happy," Bradley said. "Just getting the kids out here and having a good time and just being around them, it makes them happy and it makes the parents happy. Things like that make the kids want to work harder.”
Bradley is set to report to spring training for the Indians on February 16th.