Nearly 50 years later, Keith Hernandez still can hear his father, John, addressing his Little League team on the first day of practice, urging the players to embrace the game and its possibilities.
“He said, ‘Someone in this group right here could be the next Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays,’" he son recalled Friday. “’Why don’t you make it you?’’’
It turned out Keith was the one bound for major league glory, and at 57 he has not forgotten the role youth baseball played in his life.
In the late 1950s, his father and others in his hometown of Pacifica, Calif., built a complex of fields from scratch out of a cow pasture. In 1983 John and Jacquelyn Hernandez were named Little League Parents of the Year.
Now their son is participating in an SNY program called “Play Ball!’’ in which the network will choose six local youth leagues in underserved areas or with financial needs to receive $5,000 grants apiece.
Those selected also will be invited to a Mets game. To apply, see www.sny.tv.