• 1978 Boston Red Sox Gold Glove recipient Rick Miller (right) works with athletes on proper swinging techniques during the clinic Thursday.
    1978 Boston Red Sox Gold Glove recipient Rick Miller (right) works with athletes on proper swinging techniques during the clinic Thursday.

Former MLB players oversee youth clinic

    Murphy – It’s not every day that former Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox players are spotted in town.
    So when the likes of Sid Bream, Rick Miller and Chris Hammond were announced as guest instructors for last week’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes Dinger Derby Baseball Clinic, the interest generated a highly successful four-day camp that attracted youth hopefuls not only from Cherokee County, but from surrounding counties like Macon and Clay, plus Union and Towns County, Ga.
    “I’m a little tired, but I feel satisfied,” said Chris Rumfelt, senior pastor of First Free Will Baptist Church in Hayesville and organizer of the clinic. “We had a good turnout. Nobody got injured,  and we even learned some things we can do better for the next one.”
    The clinic took place at Konehete Park from June 25-27 before heavy rain forced the event indoors to the Rock Gym on Thursday. With recently graduated state champions Joey Curry and Caleb Irwin also lending a hand, more than 50 players sharpened their fielding, pitching, catching, hitting and baserunning skills.
    But more impactful was the inspirational messages delivered to the campers. Hammond, Miller and Bream each delivered powerful, motivating speeches during the clinic, each aimed at making the athletes think outside the box.
    Atlanta native Hammond pitched in the big leagues from 1990 to 2006, making appearances for his hometown Braves, the Cincinnati Reds, Florida Marlins, Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres, Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees.
    Bream’s major league career lasted from 1983-94 and included stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates, the Braves and Houston Astros. He is best known for “The Slide,” which saw Bream scored the winning run for Atlanta in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series against Pittsburgh and sent the Braves to their second-straight World Series. He told the players at the Dinger Derby Clinic on Thursday how special the moment was, since it meant he could use the notoriety to spread the word about his faith in God.
    “I played a great game: the game of baseball,” Bream said. “I think it’s important for every ballplayer that’s ever played in the major leagues to give back, teach and help them to understand what the game of baseball is all about.
    “I also want to tell people about my love for Jesus Christ. I think that’s the greater of the two; I know how much my relationship (with Christ) means and to be able to share that with other people is important.”
    Miller won a Gold Glove with the Red Sox in 1978 and also played with the California Angels during his career, which spanned 1971-85. Much like Bream, Miller gives back by working several youth camps a year.
    “It took me about three years after I retired to decide what I wanted to do, which is teach and give my knowledge of baseball back to the kids,” Miller said. “If they could pick up one thing from this week that can help them, then it’s been successful.”