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Academy Teaches More Than Baseball

Nine-year-old Danny Andrews held the baseball bat high above his tiny shoulders and took a deep swing at the ball.

A smile spread across his face as he launched the ball into a safety net and sheepishly accepted praise from a batting coach.

“He told me to keep a level swing and to turn my hips,” the fifth-grader said as he watched other players at bat.

Danny was one of 75 kids honing their skills this week at the L.A. Kids baseball academy at Hansen Dam Sports Center.

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The seven-week program, sponsored by the Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department and the Manny Mota Foundation, brings boys and girls from 98 recreation centers throughout the city to the sports center for four-day training camps.

Organizers estimate that some 500 kids, ages 9 to 15, will participate in the free program that will feature instruction from major and minor league players as well as recreation staff, program director Gary Bond said.

“Lots of kids in the inner city don’t get to go to a baseball academy,” Bond said. “This gives them the chance to learn with the big leaguers, learn to respect each other and how to work together as a team.”

Overseeing the academy, which runs through Aug. 28, is Domingo Mota, a former major league player and son of baseball great Manny Mota.

“The first two days of camp, the kids try to challenge the coaches and counselors,” said Mota, who played for the Dodgers, Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds. “The last two days, the coaches and the kids are really bonding.”

Mota said he hopes to instill values that will serve the players in the game of life.

“I can teach them baseball,” Mota said, “but what makes the difference is that they leave here as better people.”

The players attend minor and major league games and meet some of their favorite players and former greats, including Dodgers rookie second baseman Wilton Guerrero and famed first baseman Steve Garvey, both of whom were at the park this week.

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