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Mike Hampton marks 3rd visit with children

The major-league pitcher comes back to his old elementary school to share lunch and wisdom with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Citrus County.

By KRISTEN LEIGH PORTER
© St. Petersburg Times
published December 6, 2002


HOMOSASSA -- Walking through the hallways of Homosassa Elementary School, its most famous graduate had a flashback. His boyhood home only about 400 yards from the school, the visitor paused to reflect.

"It kind of takes you away from reality, the real world," he said. "When mom used to wash the clothes and make the dinner. Now you do that on your own."

There was no need for introductions when he entered the school cafeteria.

"Mike Hampton's here," people whispered.

Back for his third annual Mike Hampton Celebrity Weekend, the 30-year-old pitcher made his yearly trip to Citrus County. Hampton will be entering his 11th major-league season and was recently traded to the Atlanta Braves.

But Thursday afternoon, Hampton feasted on a sloppy joe, macaroni and cheese and chocolate milk from the cafeteria.

Hampton was back at his old school to have lunch with children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Citrus County, which is one of the beneficiaries of the weekend's events and his Pitching-In Foundation. The Homosassa, Crystal River and Inverness club sites were all represented.

Lt. James Martone of the Citrus County Sheriff's Office served as an emcee of sorts, telling the children more about their special guest.

"He used to have lunch here in these very same walls that you did years ago," Martone said. "He is gracious enough to come back and spend some time in the community and do some things this weekend that are going to raise some money for the Boys & Girls Clubs in our county."

Hampton took the opportunity to talk about following dreams. He told the children that now is the time to start developing good habits, such as reading and doing homework.

"Hard work is one reason that I'm a major-league baseball player, and it started with schoolwork and worked all the way into athletics and life," Hampton told the group. "If you set good habits and work really hard for something, you can accomplish all of your dreams."

Hampton, who has two sons with his wife, Kautia, added that growing up in a small town was a positive experience.

"Everybody really cares," he said. "You've got a good school and a good school system and in a good county, so just be thankful for what you have."

Principal Roberta Long said having Hampton at the school was exciting for all in attendance. It was his third year having lunch with area youngsters.

"The excitement of someone besides us speaking to them and encouraging them to make an impact, it means so much coming from him," Long said.

Hampton's lunch buddies seemed to be in agreement.

"I think he's pretty cool," said Jarvis Carter, 11.

The children even had the chance to ask their favorite major leaguer questions during the question and answer session.

Brittney Blair, 7, asked, "Do you like anything special about baseball?" The answer: winning.

Charles Moschello, 9, asked, "What was the fastest ball you ever pitched?" Hampton responded: 95 miles an hour.

But when asked if he was rich, Hampton, who reportedly made $8.5-million last season, said, "No, I'm Mike."

More than financially stable, Hampton is focusing on charity, as evidenced by his Pitching-In Foundation.

Pennie Anderson, the executive director of the Boys & Girls Clubs, said the Hampton foundation was one of the organization's biggest supporters.

"There's a lot of things we wouldn't be able to do if it weren't for the foundation and the money they give the Boys & Girls Club," Anderson said. "It just opens a lot of doors for opportunities for the children of Citrus County, and we're very appreciative of the support we get from Mike and the foundation."

-- Kristen Leigh Porter can be reached at 564-3628 or porter@sptimes.com .

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