The highlight of any Little Leaguer who has just a spattering of knowledge of Major League Baseball is that when the Chicago White Sox send their coaches to Cayman is not an opportunity to be missed.
So the kids turned up in numbers and were excitedly put through their paces over the weekend by the White Sox’s training academy coaches at the Field of Dreams.
Former MLB star Michael Huff (White Sox, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Indians) headed the contingent who came with some Chicago families.
Huff, 46, is new to the White Sox set-up having joined them five months ago. He played in the major leagues for seven years but was lost to baseball whilst working in real estate for 13 years.
On Saturday, Huff said: ‘The kids are having a great time and we’re really incorporating the parents a lot more this year. On Thursday night when we flew in, we had a session with about 30 or 40 parents – hopefully next year there’ll be more. We tried to walk them through what we’re teaching the kids as well as a practice plan.
‘There’s a lot of talent here. I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Talking to the coaches, within each group you can see two or three kids who have an awful lot of potential to be very good athletes and good ball players.’
Huff grew up in the Chicago area and played baseball at Northwestern University where he got his degree in computer science and industrial engineering.
His baseball career lasted from 1989 until he finished in Toronto in 1996.
He then went into commercial real estate until a call from Chicago last summer to head their academy came at an opportune time considering the property downturn. That meant uprooting his family from Texas back to Chicago.
The White Sox do around 450 camps a year from the Wisconsin border through north-west Indiana in a variety of sports including fast-pitch softball, baseball and basketball and some sports performance and conditioning.
Huff enjoys passing on not just sports knowledge but life skills too. ‘There are so many life lessons from any type of team sport, that’s the important thing.
‘In today’s computer and internet type world, getting the kids outside, playing is invaluable for them to learn great skills from practice, to team work.
‘They learn that to play sport there are also some other neat little lessons. Playing a sport helps both the mind and body and helps kids be more successful in life.
‘There are a number of kids here who if they continue with it and we have the right programme they could probably take it to the college level either on other islands or in the States.
‘Then again you may end up with another Michael Huff who falls through the cracks and gets to the major leagues!’
Jim Parham is the president of the Cayman Islands Little League Association.
He said: ‘It is a great opportunity for all the kids and me as a parent and coach to have the White Sox here. I’ve learnt a lot too.’
Parham is excited that whoever was the best at a set of three skills gets a chance to go to Chicago and compete against other kids from other areas that have done the same thing.
‘Cayman always has a good record at the Challenge in July and usually get someone in the top three,’ Parham said.