The 19th annual Reds Legends Youth Baseball Clinic came to an end Wednesday, and camp director Mike Wagner summed it up the best.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say this was a 10," the lifelong Reds fan said. "We had seven (former pros) including Tony Perez. It was a good year for instruction, and a good year for the kids. I think a lot of kids improved their skills. I'm really pleased."
Along with Perez, Don Gullett, Ron Oester, Herm Winningham, Todd Benzinger, Eddie Milner, and Leo Cardenas were all in attendance to share their knowledge of the game.
Reds legend Tony Perez stops for a photo with three fans at the 19th annual Reds Legends Youth Baseball Clinic. Perez headlined a group of seven former professional baseball players that were in attendance at the three day clinic.
Wagner said that Perez might be the biggest name they have ever had at the popular event.
"Perez is in the top 100 players in 100 years of baseball," Wagner said. "I told the kids when I introduced (Perez) that if I had to pick a player from the 'Big Red Machine'- including Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Joe Morgan - I would pick Perez."
"Producing runs is the name of the game," Wagner continued. "When it came to getting a big hit with two outs, Perez was the best. People were really excited to get to know him, and listen to him. He helped each individual kid with their hitting mechanics. It was very beneficial, and it was a thrill."
It was a very star-powered year for the clinic, as Perez and Gullett were each a part of the 1975-76 teams that won back-to-back World Series titles. Benzinger, Oester, and Winningham were all a part of the 1990 team that swept the Athletics to win the franchises fifth world championship, and Cardenas played shortstop for the 1961 team that won the NL Pennant.
As amazing as the experience was for the kids, perhaps the parents got the greatest thrill from the event.
"Not only was it memorable for the kids, but the parents and grandparents as well," Wagner said. "We always just try to put on a family event. I had several moms and dads tell me 'I'm enjoying this more than my kids.' I think that's great."
The camp had 160 kids in attendance, about 35 there on scholarships. "This is a great community," Wagner said. "A lot of businesses pitch in to help feed the kids and players, and provide ice and cups. Many different companies have helped make this a special event."
Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the camp, and Wagner is already excited.
"It pumps me up," Wagner said. "We've been doing this awhile. I always try to bring in as big of names as possible. I'm looking forward to some new names and familiar faces next year. We've put a great year in the books."