Valencia resident Cayden Kollasch was already on cloud nine from having the opportunity to attend Hunter Greene’s Baseball Fest in Inglewood on Jan. 7.
The clinic put on by Greene, a Stevenson Ranch native, included appearances from National Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, New York Mets All-Star right-hander Noah Syndergaard and former Major League outfielder Eric Davis.
Kids were treated to lessons on the field and how to better conduct yourself off it.
But that was really only the beginning for the 10-year-old Kollasch, who attends Legacy Christian Academy.
He was selected as one of four kids out of a raffle to ride in a limousine with Greene from the camp to the Adidas store in Culver City. From there, they received a $500 shopping spree to the store and even more one-on-one time with the player selected No. 2 overall in last year’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Cincinnati Reds.
“I can’t even explain it,” Kollasch said. “It was like a dream come true. It was kind of weird being in the same place as a Hall of Famer and an All-Star and being only 10 years old.
Inspired by Greene’s generosity, Kollasch and his mother, Michelle Imperial-Kollasch, wanted to give back as well.
“We just brainstormed on the ride home on ways we can pay it forward because we were so inspired to make a difference in Hunter’s honor,” Michelle said.
Cayden, who had just come off a birthday the weekend prior to the camp, elected to take his own money collected from his birthday, Christmas and other such things to sponsor a player’s registration fees through a program with Hart Baseball.
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“What makes me happy is one of my many messages have been about giving back and between my camp messages and what his parents have taught him, he put it to work and is sponsoring another youth player’s registration for baseball in my name,” Greene said in a Twitter message. “That’s really cool and it makes me personally feel really good that I touched someone’s life at that age.
“I really feel I don’t have to wait until I get to the big leagues to make a difference in someone’s life. Cayden and the other kids are proof of that.”
Greene, who’s only 18 himself, stressed his five pillars of success at the clinic, which included integrity, humility, compassion, courage and discipline. Those are qualities Michelle always hoped to instill in her son. But it’s a little easier to sometimes get the message across when it’s coming from a professional baseball phenom.
A framed picture with those pillars, alongside a picture of Greene delivering a pitch in a Reds uniform, now hangs in Cayden’s bedroom.
“It just shows how one good deed, like Hunter’s, can inspire people to do great things themselves,” Michelle said. “I couldn’t think of a better role model for my son. You could see by the look on (Cayden’s) face that it was like heaven for him.”
At the Adidas store, Greene gave suggestions on gear and what some of his preferences were while answering an array of questions from the group, mesmerized merely by his presence.
“He made it a point to continually interact with the boys,” Michelle said. “He was so personable and authentic. You don’t always get that from professional athletes.”
The Kollaschs are diehard Dodgers fans and Cayden is a baseball fanatic. When it comes to his favorite pro baseball player, he may have found himself a new one in Greene.
“Oh yeah, you could say that,” Cayden said.