As far as Southern California club baseball teams go, few can tout a laundry list of players currently affiliated with Major League Baseball organizations like the Playa Vista Orioles.
That alumni base includes several Santa Clarita Valley products, who were out at College of the Canyons on Saturday to help put on a clinic for around 30 kids ages 11-14.
Of the players on hand were Hart alum and Colorado Rockies utility man Pat Valaika, his brother, Nick, who also went to Hart and is currently within the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor league system and Valencia alum, Jared Oliva, who the Pirates took in the seventh round of this year’s MLB Draft out of Arizona.
“It’s always awesome to give back, but especially here,” said Pat Valaika, who hit .258 with 13 homers last season with the Rockies. “There are so many players and coaches from this area who meant a lot to me growing up, so I just want to be able to pass that torch down the best I can.”
Kids were taken through various base running, fielding and hitting drills with the assortment of Playa Vista Orioles alums through the three-hour clinic.
COC baseball coach Jim Cota and Orioles general manager Jim Olivarez also helped guide the event at Cougar Field.
“These kids were in our shoes not too long ago and it goes by in a blink of an eye,” Oliva said. “Any insight that I can pass down, I want to make sure I’m there to help.
Infielders attending the clinic were especially spoiled as Alex Mejia of the St. Louis Cardinals, also an Orioles alum, spent time tutoring middle infielders.
Mejia played in 29 games for the Cardinals last season as a rookie, making appearances at third base, shortstop and second base.
“I’m grateful because I had so many people in my life who were there to help extend my career and get me to where I am today,” Mejia said. “If I could be that person for even one of these kids, I’d be extremely happy.”
At the end of the clinic, everyone gathered at the pitching mound at Cougar Field for a picture, though the kids who attended likely won’t need a photo to remember the day they took the field with professional baseball players.