For this young group of ball players, the start of spring means the return of baseball. But each time they run onto the diamond this year, they will be extending a local tradition.

"We want to use the field as a classroom," said Robert Muccio, president of the Cadets Baseball Club.

This year's opening day kicked off the 75th season of the Cadets Baseball Club.

Founded in Brooklyn during World War II, the club fields teams for ballplayers raging in age from eight to 18.

Robert Smith was the bat boy for the Cadets during their inaugural season in 1944.

"I remember being excited just to be a part of the cadets because it was such a tradition in the neighborhood," said Smith.

Smith remained with the Cadets for nine years, a tenure he credits with helping him land a spot to briefly play with the Cleveland Indians' organization.

He is not the only Cadet to reach the big leagues. Joe Torre, who played in the majors for 18 years and led the Yankees to four world championships as a manager, also got his start with the organization.

"I was fortunate to coach Joe Torre, and Joe went on to the Hall of Fame now," said Smith.

Torre's brother Frank, Rico Petrocelli of the Red Sox and San Francisco Giant Rich Aurilia also traveled from the Cadets to the major leagues.

"This baseball team over 75 years shaped the lives of many ballplayers, myself included," said Smith.

As the organization continues to grow, its impact on athletes has grown, too. The Cadets have awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships to players for extraordinary contributions off the field.

"It is not about winning. It is about developing their character," said Muccio.

Just like in the big leagues, every player will be wearing a special patch and hat to honor the 75th year.

"When they put a Cadet uniform on, they are wearing tradition," said Smith.

While baseball continues to change, the Cadets say their mission will remain the same: giving young children a chance to learn the game.