Matt Barnes knows how to use his connections.
After the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, the Red Sox pitching prospect and Bethel, Conn. native knew he wanted to do his part to help the community heal.
And he knew he could use his status as a professional baseball player to do so.
Enlisting the help of fellow Connecticut-natives George Springer, Mike Olt, Evan Scribner, Troy Scribner, and Conor Bierfeldt, Barnes organized a youth baseball clinic in December 2013 for 7 to 15 years-olds at the Newtown Youth Academy. “I felt this was a way for us to give back for all of the support I received when I was that age,” Barnes explained.
After the success of last year’s event, baseball’s pride of Connecticut converged once again in Newtown last Sunday to participate in Barnes’ second annual clinic.
Springer, Bierfeldt, and the Scribners returned to support Barnes, and were joined by San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik, who is actually from nearby Hopewell Junction, New York, but was still a welcome addition to the coaching staff. Red Sox prospect Alex McKeon, Orioles prospect Zach Albin, and Red Sox pitcher Craig Breslow also lent their expertise to the event.
Barnes expressed his appreciation for his fellow baseball players’ willingness to help youth affected by the horrific tragedy in their home state. “Not only does it show how good friends they are,” he said, “but it really shows how much they care about giving back to the community as well, wanting to come out and help the kids have a fun day. I’m very fortunate to have guys like that.”
Around 200 kids attended this free clinic and spent about four hours receiving hands-on instruction from their big-league heroes. The event also offered giveaways, including Yankees and Red Sox tickets. Barnes was jokingly annoyed that the Yankees tickets drew more excitement from the kids, but that’s what you get when you hold an event in Yankee territory.
Despite the fact that most of these kids are Yankee fans, Barnes plans to put on the clinic again next year. And no doubt his friends will be down to join him.
“It’s good to be a part of it and have some fun with these kids,” Springer said. “Because of the events that led into [Barnes’ idea to give back], it’s a sad day, but just to help and be a part of this and give back to the state, and the town, is obviously great.”