TORONTO -- Prior to Thursday's contest vs. the Red Sox, the Blue Jays and Jays Care Foundation held their annual wrapup party for their Baseball Academy Rookie League.
Joined by Neil Wagner, Thad Weber, and Mickey Storey, the Blue Jays went to all lengths to ensure that the kids walked away with a fond memory of their seven-week introduction to baseball.
"We try to make a big deal out of it. It's a little bit of pageantry to make them feel more important, make them feel special," executive director of Jays Care Foundation Rob Drynan said.
On Thursday, they pulled out all the stops, from kids having their throws clocked by a police radar gun; an afternoon on Toronto Island with some inflatables; some skills contests on the Rogers Centre turf; and ending with the Blue Jays game.
For many of the kids, stepping onto the field that the Blue Jays play on was a big part of the experience.
"All of a sudden they get on the field, the same turf their heroes play on, it's really powerful," Drynan said, who spent much of his day interacting with the kids. "It's a very unique opportunity. There's not too many people that get to run around on that field. For them to do it, it feels very special."
The 25th edition of Rookie League saw 1,200 kids, spread across 56 Toronto Community Housing neighborhoods in under-resourced communities.
"The idea is we teach baseball skills, but it's also about giving these kids a safe place to be active and healthy over the summertime," Drynan said.
Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @EvanPeaslee. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.