Loud laughter and screeching sneakers could be heard Friday on the basketball court at the newly renovated Flagstaff Boys and Girls Club. The children inside played a modified game of indoor baseball with adults in matching catcher’s mitts and badges.
For three days this week, there was a Flagstaff Police Department patrol car in front of the Boys and Girls Club on Paseo del Rio, where officers volunteered to introduce baseball to neighborhood kids.
“We play baseball with the police!” said Bo “Jr” Rotanns, one of the elementary school kids at the Boys and Girls Club. “We’re starting on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Monday we got caught, Wednesday we hit, and today we’re having a real game with the police.”
Ruthans, sporting big red baseball gloves and eager to get back into the game, told the Daily Sun:[The game’s been] So far so good, I hit two home runs,” he added, leaning back contrivedly.
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He said the kids hadn’t yet succeeded in beating the police officers, but he was pretty confident they’d be able to manage it in no time using their newly acquired skills.
Developing the skills of little athletes is just one of the goals of Badges for Baseballs. His six-week program, sponsored by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, is also about relationship building.
“This will continue as a six-week program. said Mark Cox, CEO of Flagstaff Boys and Girls Clubs.
The officers certainly taught the children about the rules of the game, but they also worked as a team to help them understand how to communicate with their peers on and off the field.
An added benefit, according to Flagstaff Police spokesperson Jerry Rintala, is that children get the chance to spend time around uniformed police officers in a carefree environment.
“Make a positive impact while they’re young to let them know that we’re here and that we’re human so they can come to us and talk to us. It’s great,” said Rintala.
In theory, Friday’s badge and baseball game should have been on the field. Giving children like Rutans the opportunity to actually practice their swing.
Challenged by the weather and persistently low temperatures, the program was moved indoors, where the children installed a yellow T-ball post and opted for a wiffle ball over the traditional 9-inch cork and rubber sphere.
The bright side, Cox said, is the Boys and Girls Club’s newly renovated gym.
“It’s a great opportunity to take advantage of our new facility,” says Cox. The Boys and Girls Club has developed a new His Teenage Center and ‘Maker’s Space Lab’, along with a new gym.
According to Cox, the facility’s development was the result of good use of the nonprofit’s limited funds.
“A lot of people think we live because we have support from national organizations. We must seek gifts to maintain and support our children,” Cox said.
Typically, boys and girls clubs offer programs like Badges for Baseball to about 300 students, he said. For several years the kids were given the opportunity to travel to Maryland for baseball trips, but this year the scale was scaled back a bit due to limited funds.Nearly 200 of his teens and He estimates that young people will be targeted for this year’s program.
Still, he’s proud of the new facility and how the nonprofit is using the funds it needs to help the children of Flagstaff.
“Our mission is to inspire and enable young people, especially those who need us most. We have a lot of great resources and facilities,” Cox said.
Sierra Ferguson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.