ENGLEWOOD — The Englewood Police/Youth Baseball League is about more than baseball, according to Glen Brooks, the Chicago Police Department's Area South coordinator.
Teamwork, discipline and coping skills are at the top of Glen Brooks' list for lessons learned.
Between answering questions from DNAinfo Chicago, Brooks shouted words of encouragement or quick tips for the young players who practice and play at Hamilton Park Cultural Center Park, 513 W. 72nd St.
“Good pitch ... Relax and focus!” he said. “You got to be fast!”
“They are doing great,” Brooks said, who added that volunteer coaches are teaching the fundamentals of the sport. “They had to learn how to throw a ball... they have gotten it.”
Initially, forming the league was a challenge, Brooks said. Police needed the community to get on board with the idea.
“When we tried to do it with just the police, simply the police, we weren’t as successful, but when we work together, we are much more successful,” he said.
“This isn’t a police-run league. We have a role in this league, but this is really the community.”
Before the season began, Andrea NaTay, owner of Forever Fitness Chicago, canvassed the streets to spread the word and get kids registered. More than 100 kids signed up for the league, which has six teams. Sponsors include Teamwork Englewood, Get IN Chicago, and the Chicago Park District. There was no registration fee, and equipment and uniforms were provided.
For many of the players, this is their first time playing the game, Brooks said. He wants it to be fun, and he hopes they gain life skills from the experience as well.
“I really hope they learn to deal with success and disappointment,” Brooks said. “I want them to learn to work together, and how to be disciplined in order to accomplish a goal.”
He said the players will naturally receive mentoring just from being around the coaches.
Parents and supporters of the league said they believe this will help strengthen relationships and build trust between communities of color and the police.
Janet Moore, 62, lives in the Chatham/Park Manor community and signed up her grandson D’Andre.
She said she thinks this type of league is a good idea, but there are some who probably have their doubts.
“The kids probably have second thoughts, as well as some of the parents,” Moore said. “But overall, I think it is a good thing for the police to come out and interact with these children.”
After seeing the Jackie Robinson West team play, Moore said D’Andre, 7, expressed interest in baseball.
At practice on Wednesday evening, he called being on the team “fun.”
“I’m learning new things,” he said.
Joshua Ellis, 11, joined with his 12-year-old sister Sammya Ellis.
Unlike Sammya, who played sports prior to joining, Joshua hadn’t, but he’s looking forward to telling people that he does now.
“People asked me why I didn’t play sports, but now I can say I tried out here for baseball,” he said.
The youths will attend a White Sox game on Saturday, Brooks said.
“The White Sox are contributing to this effort."
Sammya said, “I’m excited, I’ve never been to a game."
Brooks said the league is making a positive impact on Englewood.
“This is an excellent way for us to serve the community and contribute to the community,” Brooks said. “That’s what our goal is here, not to make major league players.”
The season runs through Aug. 15.
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