Outfielder Taj Brar leaned on his crutches just behind the foul line at Bud Murray Baseball Field on Thursday during Hart High School’s Summer Camp Day for the Santa Clarita Valley Boys and Girls Club.
He’d recently broken his femur during a collision at home plate during an offseason game. The recovery time for such an injury is approximately six months, meaning it’s possible he may not play next season — his would-be final season before graduating.
It’s a devastating injury for any ballplayer and many in his position might opt to sit at home for an event like this, but not Brar. Of course he wanted to be there for his teammates, but more importantly, he knew the significance of helping out kids who may not always get a chance to play actual baseball. He knew the importance of being a role model.
“I just want everybody to learn because, obviously, I was brought up playing baseball and to be able to show, (by) coming here, the happiness that I was able to get from baseball. I just want to show everybody else the happiness that I got,” said Brar. “Honestly, I just think it’s great that we’re able to do this for these Boys and Girls Clubs kids, because sometimes they might not get the opportunity for it and giving them, giving anybody, the opportunity is probably the best thing you could do in life.”
Approximately 30 kids, ages 8 through 15, and 40 junior varsity and varsity Hart baseball players participated in the Summer Camp Day. The event looked like a typical baseball practice — starting out with stretches, then sprints and then some catch and toss.
Because of Hart’s busy and year-round schedule, the baseball and softball fields aren’t always available to the kids at the Boys and Girls Club, which is located next door to Hart’s campus.
Cecil Hammock, the Boys and Girls Club’s athletic director, said the closest they get to teaching baseball is wiffleball in the gymnasium. The Summer Camp Day provided an opportunity to not only be outside and on a field, but also for the kids to throw baseballs and to receive instructions from actual baseball players.
The lighting, he said, was key to kids’ hand-eye coordination and the day couldn’t have provided a better environment for it — a sunny and cloudless day sitting at an ideal temperature of 75 degrees. But, the most important part, to Hammock, is that the kids have fun.
“The kids having fun, that’s my joy. Seeing the kids have fun, the club is family,” said Hammock. “That’s what we do with family, you take care of your children.”
Jim Ozella, head coach of Hart baseball, said his favorite part about the event were the smiles on everybody’s faces, but not just the ones on the faces of kids from the Boys and Girls Club, but also those that emerged on the faces of his players. He said baseball is more than just a game — it offers life lessons to young adults, such as being humane and loving.
“You become friends with somebody you’ve never met before and you’d be a role model,” said Ozella. “I think it’s kind of an important lesson for all these kids to learn. Not just the little ones but my guys as well … It’s funny, some of our guys are very quiet guys. But all of a sudden on this day they open up, which I think is a beautiful thing.”
Outfielder Alex Howard was showing 8-year-old Christian Ramos proper throwing form as he answered questions from The Signal. By the time the interview was over, Ramos’ wild throws became straight and headed right into Howard’s glove.
“Teaching baseball and seeing it from a new angle is always kind of a good way to look at stuff,” said Howard. “It’s fun to just get to talk about stuff you enjoy.”
Free shirts for the camp were provided by The Paseo Club and sponsored by Santa Clarita Concrete.