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SF Giants legends visit El Dorado Hills

By: Brett Ransford/Telegraph Correspondent
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As the San Francisco Giants fought for their World Series bid, Hard 90 Baseball Academy in El Dorado Hills celebrated its local baseball talent with some Giants legends. Hard 90 Baseball Academy, a program geared to improve the skills of players ages 8-18, hosted 49 registered participants at the Legends’ Baseball Clinic at their El Dorado Hills facility on Saturday. The clinic covered hitting, pitching and infield under the expert instruction of former Giants Jim Davenport, Vida Blue and Tito Fuentes. Rick Sundberg, director and instructor at Hard 90, organized the event along with author Gary Hall and the release of his book “Baseball Legends and Legacies.” The book is a tribute to another Giants legend, Bobby Bonds. Within it are stories from Hall of Fame players and greats from the past century including Davenport, Blue and Fuentes. Hall was a batboy for the Giants in 1972 and said he was homeless at a time. Bobby Bonds heard of this and according to Hall, adopted him as his own and inspired an entire book and lifetime of baseball memories. “I met Rick and told him I wanted to make an impression on young kids and pass on that love of the game and the history of men like my good friend Bobby [Bonds],” said Hall. “This is my very first clinic and I chose Rick and Hard 90 because of his attitude.” Book sales at the event served as a fundraiser opportunity for the academy. Sundberg and 10 other instructors offered three stations – pitching with Blue, hitting with Davenport and fielding with Fuentes. Kids ages 8-16 came with their families and packed into the facility for the three-hour clinic. All participants and attendees had opportunities to interact directly and take home an autographed souvenir. “These guys are in the book ‘Legends and Legacies’ for a reason,” said Sundberg. “The idea here is just to have these kids learn from some of the greatest players in the game.” Placerville resident Jerry Stewart and his 10-year-old son, Jonathan, have been part of Hard 90 for about a month. Jonathan, a fifth-grade student at Schnell Elementary, was the close companion and helper of Blue in the pitching station. “I was helping by picking up balls and also hitting,” said Jonathan. “I’m a fan of his and I’m going to do pitching and all of this stuff.” One thing Jonathan got to do was take hitting advice and practice from a former All-Star and 1962 World Series player with the Giants in Davenport. Davenport’s son, Gary, attended Santa Clara with Sundberg and the trio mastered the hitting station, stop number two in the clinic. “My kids have come up here a number of times, but this is the first time I’ve seen the facilities,” said Davenport. “It’s great. Gary’s been up here doing these things for Rick before so he asked me if I would come up for this, and of course I said yes.” Hard 90 hosts a number of events in the El Dorado Hills community, but the presence of such historic figures on the same day as a berth in the World Series for the Giants was a first.