SAN DIEGO -- Former Padres hitting coach Merv Rettenmund stood in the right-field corner at Petco Park on Saturday morning, watching child after child take a few hacks off a tee. As part of a MLB Players Alumni Association Legends for Youth clinic, Rettenmund analyzed each swing to find ways on how the children could improve.
But there was a child he held to only one cut. Confused, the boy sat down among his peers. Then, Rettenmund addressed the dozen of youths in front of him.
"He only got one swing because his swing was so darn good," Rettenmund said, a smile stretching across the child's face.
Rettenmund, a two-time World Series champion as a player who added a third ring as Oakland's hitting coach in 1989, was among eight former Major Leaguers to participate in Saturday's clinic at Petco Park, one of 185 the MLBPAA will host for children across 10 countries in 2017.
Geoff Hixson, MLBPAA's chief operating officer, said few teams have the event on their homefield, and the Padres' allowance made the day more impactful for the children.
"At the end of the day, the message is to promote the sport of baseball," Hixson said. "… You learn a lot of different things from this game. The guys that came before understand that."
As Rettenmund worked on hitting, children pleaded to sprint out onto the outfield grass, where other players, all wearing jerseys bearing their name and former team, were scattered teaching different aspects of fielding.
"You see this grass out here? Beautiful," the 74-year-old Rettenmund said. "I looked at it for 43 years, and I kind of miss it some days. I enjoy anything I can do when I come to the ballpark. It makes me feel really young."
Former pitchers Dave Frost and Mike Gallo worked in the visitor's bullpen, telling children the importance of their balance point.
Along the warning track in front of the Western Metal Building, former Padre Rob Nelson taught baserunning. The only alumni in a Padres uniform, Nelson watched several children savor their first steps on a Major League field. He reminisced about the first time he stood on Dodger Stadium's warning track during a Los Angeles Little League Day in the mid-1970s, dreaming of standing there again one day as a big league player.
"This is the joy of what we do, taking these kids and being able to give back," Nelson said. "You never know which of these kids is going to end up in the Major Leagues. The dream can come true."
Rettenmund, who is from Michigan, didn't stand on a big league field until his debut for Baltimore in 1968, under far more pressure than the children in attendance Saturday. But growing up, he had their same dreams.
"I used to go to Detroit and look at the field, and I said, 'If I ever made the big leagues, I'd never take the uniform off,'" Rettenmund said. "I'd wear it home."
So Rettenmund stood in the right-field corner, a uniform still buttoned around him as he and others passed along their love of the game.This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.