ENGLEWOOD— The Englewood Police Youth Baseball League kicked off its second season with a triple-header Wednesday, along with other opening day festivities.
The league, which has six teams named The DuSable Boys, The Monarchs and The Barons, among others, was started as a way to bridge the gap between the Englewood community and the police.
The teams are coached by current and retired police officers, along with members of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.
The games were held at Hamilton Park, 513 W. 72nd St., from 3-7:30 p.m. First pitch was at 5:30 p.m.
Today is the day! Opening Day Ceremony begins at 3pm | Games start at 5:30pm | Hamilton Park 513 W. 72nd ⚾️⚾️⚾️ pic.twitter.com/eYcay6lxyb— EPYBLeague (@EPYBLeague) June 29, 2016
Jermaine Davis, a member of the Omegas, is one of the coaches in the league, which he says sells itself. Last year, the program had more than 200 kids participate.
"This program is a beacon of light for the Englewood community. You don't see many programs like this," Davis said. "We have a lot of parents who were here last year. One parent tells another parent, and that parent tells another parent."
Davis told DNAinfo that the league was not only a way to mend police-community relations, it was a way to get Englewood kids involved in baseball. According to a study done by USA TODAY, only 8 percent of Major League players are African-American.
"Some of the kids had not been exposed to baseball before," Davis said. "Now these kids are playing for park district teams and for Jackie Robinson West."
Andrea NaTay, owner of Forever Fitness Chicago, canvassed Englewood in order to get the word out about the league.
"This is a great community-building effort with the mentors being police officers. The community has had a great turnout and I hope it last for years to come," NaTay said. "The parents love it. They feel safe because the coaches are police officers. They feel safe because it is in the Englewood community."
Brittni McNeal come out to see her son Cameron Williams and her nephew Bryce Townsend play.
"I thought it would be nice for them to have something to do," McNeal said. "They like being out here with the other kids having fun. It gives them camaraderie with the other children and the community."
Marco Johnson, president of Chicago Police Athletic League, retired from the police department after 28 years in 2013. He says that similar events have popped up all over the city.
"We used to get out of our squad cars and play 'Strike Out' with the kids," Johnson said. 'We've been doing this for a long time but nobody talks about it."
Ald. Rod Sawyer (6th) said the league was a way to expose young men to positive role models.
"I want these young kids to see men standing up in their community once again," Sawyer said. "They will only be what they see."
In March, Near West District police officers started a basketball league in Fosco Park with similar goals.
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