Phillies, MLB team up to "Play Ball" with children in West Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WPVI) -- When 5-year-old Giovanni Irick was playing baseball with his family, he didn't realize the Phillie Phanatic was watching him.

Yet, the lovable green monster rushed over to compliment the young boy on his strong swing.

Irick was using a wiffle ball bat gifted by the Philadelphia Phillies and Major League Baseball through the Play Ball program.

"So many times, kids have opportunities and choices to do the wrong thing," said Tony Reagins, Chief Baseball Development Officer with MLB. "We think that baseball can give you that option to do the right thing."

Started in 2015, the Play Ball program partners with black churches across the nation, aiming to engage children in the sport. Today, they organized an event at Saint Matthew African Methodist Episcopal Church in West Philadelphia. There, families could safely drive through and pick up a baseball kit and a Phillies bobblehead.

"We hope they take from this that somebody cares about them," said Reverend Vernon Byrd of St. Matthew A.M.E. Church.

Headlining the beautiful day were Phillies alumni Mickey Morandini and Milt Thompson.

"You learn so much through sports," said Morandini. "How to be a good teammate, how to be responsible."

Both Philadelphia legends autographed bats and snapped photos with children and their parents.
Nasir Stanton from West Philadelphia was amazed to learn of Milt Thompson's 41-year-long career in baseball.

"To meet them, it's a blessing, for real," he said. "Hopefully, in the future, I'll be able to do stuff like this for other kids and other families."

To learn more about the Play Ball program, visit their website.

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