Growing up, Joplin Outlaws outfielder Mike Million relished each opportunity he had to meet and learn from the older baseball players in his St. Louis hometown.
“When I was little, I remember those guys I looked up to and how I always wanted them to notice me, talk to me and give me some tips on how baseball should be played,” Million said. “Those opportunities mean a lot to a kid. And for me, they helped teach the basic fundamentals of the game.”
The two-time all-MIAA selection from Missouri Southern has taken advantage of his chance to pay it forward this week.
Million and his Outlaws teammates were instructors in a youth camp that brought in more than 130 kids on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at Joe Becker Stadium. The young players were taught the basic fundamentals of the game, such as throwing, catching, pitching, hitting, baserunning and more.
“The camp was absolutely great,” Outlaws general manager Mark Rains said. “I think the players had just as much fun as the campers. The kids would rotate stations throughout the day and learn how to run the bases, how to play catch, how to throw bullpen and so on. They absolutely loved it, as did our players.”
While the majority of the youth participants were from the Joplin area, one team traveled all the way from Kansas City to partake in the two-day event.
“It was great to see the players interacting with the campers and making the game fun for them,” Rains said. “You could tell that a lot of them seemed to gravitate toward guys like Mike because of their bright personalities and energy. And you know, our guys were in their shoes before. So they recognize how important it is to have mentors to look up to and learn from at a young age.”
“I bring a lot of positive energy, and that’s probably one thing the kids enjoy to be around,” Million said. “It’s a bit of a heartwarming experience because I get to give back what I learned, and even what I wish I would have learned whenever I was that age. It’s fun to see the smiles on all of their faces and knowing that we’re making baseball practice an enjoyable experience for them.”