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Former Boston Red Sox All-Star Mo Vaughn Gives Back to South Florida's baseball youth

The Palm Beach Post logo The Palm Beach Post 8/14/2019 By Alex Peterman Special to The Post, The Palm Beach Post, Fla.
a bunch of items that are on a table: A wall of photos at the Mo Vaughn Baseball Academy in Boca Raton of players Vaughn and his team have worked with through the years. [CHET PETERMAN/Special to The Post] © CHET PETERMAN/Special to The Post/The Palm Beach Post, Fla./TNS A wall of photos at the Mo Vaughn Baseball Academy in Boca Raton of players Vaughn and his team have worked with through the years. [CHET PETERMAN/Special to The Post]

BOCA RATON — Stepping inside the Mo Vaughn Baseball Academy, an unassuming building reveals batting nets that line the room and bats of all varieties that adorn the walls.

But more importantly, people that walk into the academy see excited young baseball players learning America's favorite pastime from those who lived and breathed the game at its highest level.

Mo Vaughn, nicknamed "The Hit Dog," was a three-time MLB All-Star selection. Among his biggest accomplishments was his American-league MVP Award for his 1995 season with the Boston Red Sox. He also batted .293 and hit 328 home runs across a 12-year career.

Now, the former major-league first-baseman is dedicating his time to helping young ballplayers develop their game through clinics that run throughout the year. Aided by other former players and coaches, including Mike Easler and Ben Rivera, he and clinic director Joseph Cossuto have put together a program that provides technical instruction and teaches lessons that young baseball players can take to heart on and off the field.

"The most important thing for me is – nobody gives the young kids a shot," Vaughn said. "Everybody is always like, 'you know what, these young kids can't be coached' or 'they don't listen' or 'I can't communicate with them.' But this is where, (for) the young kids, we can stamp their brain. We can stamp their mind in doing the techniques the right way. And when they're 12, 13, 14, 15 years old, it's already going to be imprinted. They'll be easiest to teach now.

a group of young men playing a game of baseball: Former MLB All-Star and academy founder Mo Vaughn (center), Clinic Director Joseph Cossuto and their players gather for a group photo during a recent practice in Boca Raton. [CHET PETERMAN/Special to The Post] © center, Clinic Director Joseph Cossuto and their players gather for a group photo during a recent pr... Former MLB All-Star and academy founder Mo Vaughn (center), Clinic Director Joseph Cossuto and their players gather for a group photo during a recent practice in Boca Raton. [CHET PETERMAN/Special to The Post]

"It's very hard to break old habits. And I, even going into the big leagues, I wish I had this opportunity to be coached at this level."

The young players involved in a recent clinic loved running around a place designed for their favorite sport. But when it came time to listen to the experts' guidance, they were all ears. That meaningful understanding, says Cossuto, is part of the mission of the program.

"I have my degree in psychology," Cossuto said. "I feel my best practical application of that is to figure out how to bring out the best in each kid by speaking his language. So, if I can speak a language he understands, if Mo can speak a language he understands, which allows him to make the changes and to understand certain concepts that allow him to take that out on the field, then our job is done."

Just listening to the instructors talk to the players was one thing. But then they took what they've learned and immediately practiced. Each of them grabbed a bat and jumped inside the batting cages, where Vaughn and Cossuto took turns pitching, providing tailored instruction so each player could make the adjustments needed.

"I live and die in center field," said Luciano Grasso, one of two brothers who recently attended the clinic. "(Coach Vaughn) helped me get a better swing and hit a lot of bombs. I hit my first home run the other day."

The joy in the kids' faces was evident as they took turns practicing. But while fun is important to the Mo Vaughn Baseball Academy, it doesn't stop there.

For Vaughn, the program is largely based on helping young players overcome difficulties that they will face. He knows this first-hand because he faced difficulties, even as a major-leaguer. Sometimes, he said, you can do everything right, and it just doesn't happen the way you planned it.

"This game is the essence of life," he said. "Adversity is something that all of us need to learn how to deal with. And this game, the game of baseball, the Mo Vaughn Baseball Academy is going to give you the ability to learn life lessons through adversity."

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©2019 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

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