Spring training is about to start for all major league teams. At this point of the year, players are gearing up, getting themselves fine-tuned for a long season.
Former Pasco High and current Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown is splitting his days working out with his MLB teammates from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Then he drives across the bridge to give back to a young group of fans.
"What'd you say, who wants to hit first?" Brown tells a swarming group of Little Leaguers.
Brown is the Phillies' pied piper of baseball. Kids swarm to him to learn professional secrets. Inside an old Tampa warehouse is where you'll find the 2010 top minor league prospect. It's his fieldhouse of dreams.
"This is something I wanted to do as a kid and hopefully I can do this my whole life," said Brown.
"There's not too many Major League ballplayers that are spending time with kids every day, that are playing at today's game," said Todd Cenal, owner of The Next Level. "There are a lot of ex-ballplayers, who do this, but a player that is involved with today's game and doing it is incredible."
Domonic is teamed up Washington National minor leaguer Josh Johnson at The Next Level trying to help young prospects reach their next level. It's on their own free time, a free way to give back.
"This is what's all about," said Brown. "It's all about the kids coming up now days. We just come in and get to work and have fun with the kids. It's been a great offseason."
"I remember when I was younger," continued Johnson. "It was always exciting to see those older guys come back and help. I'm just giving back, just like someone gave to me."
The two have become quite a hit.
"The best thing about them is that they play along with you," said Devin Perez, 11. "They don't get on you and stuff, so it's really cool."
The young kids are soaking up as much as they can about baseball and Domonic's pro career. What they don't learn at the facility, they can head home to look up on the computer for insider info.
"He did assign us homework," said 8-year-old Jack Lennon. "Domonic Brown verses Justin Verlander. He took him deep on a nine-pitch at bat."
"They have Google and this stuff," said Brown. "All they have to do type in my name and 100-million things come up."
"They Google us man," said Johnson. "They come back and they say, 'Hey J.J. I saw this, I saw that. You did this. You had such and such stolen bases.' It's fun."
Fun -- even coming from an enemy of the hometown Rays.
"We have a lot or Rays fans in here," said Brown with a smile. "They heckle me, but that's the beauty about it. It's a competition everyday with these guys. It's a different challenge."
It's a rewarding challenge both for the kids and for new idols.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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