With his one-handed, leaping grab of a football, 12-year-old Emmett Johnson stirred shouts from peers and college athletes alike Saturday in north Minneapolis' Farview Park.
The park's Eddie Phillips Field was the site of a two-hour morning field day put on by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and Minneapolis Jeep Dealers. Roughly 50 area children shuttled between obstacle courses, kickball, soccer and baseball drills.
Their instructors: Augsburg College's baseball team, University of Minnesota athletes and Minnesota Twins mascot TC Bear in a brief campaign as a soccer goalie.
"He took a couple shots, but he got up like a trouper," said Brooke Austin, a training specialist for the foundation.
Johnson was one of four participants to receive a medal for attending the foundation's annual weeklong summer camp in Maryland. For Johnson, Saturday's field day made for a rare chance to fit in a little baseball and soccer before jumping over to North Commons Park for a football game. He also enjoyed mixing it up with new people.
"It's actually fun because you have to get to know them," Johnson said.
The Maryland-based Ripken Foundation develops youth programs and partners with cities to create parks in distressed communities. It also draws on getting local law enforcement involved. On Saturday, that meant having a couple of Minneapolis cops encouraging participants as they wound through an obstacle course.
The sponsoring Jeep dealers also donated sports equipment to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board as part of the program.
"The whole idea of bringing a community together is if everyone knows each other you're going to run a more cohesive unit," Austin said.
Austin hoped the presence of college athletes could serve as motivation for the kids.
"Whatever your sport is, you can aspire to that," she said.
Earlier Saturday, Johnson noted that he's now familiar with the Augsburg school colors and its teams' playing styles.
As Augsburg head baseball coach Keith Bateman surveyed the field Saturday, he said he appreciated how engaged his players were. None of them sulked around or peered at their phones. He said the team perked up upon arriving and seeing the massive inflatable obstacle course — "nothing says good time like a bounce house" — and hoped to transmit that positive energy.
"They might not remember some of the stuff we say, but hopefully they remember when they think back [and say] man, I really had a good time. I want to do that when I get older," Bateman said.
"Maybe they pass that on."