ENGLEWOOD — Since joining a baseball league in Englewood in which the coaches are Chicago Police officers, 7-year-old Shawn Garrett now wants to be a policeman himself.
“I like police officers,” he said.
Returning to the Englewood Police Youth Baseball League for a second season — which kicks off with opening day next week at Hamilton Park — gives him more opportunities to ask questions about their job, he said.
“I asked them what do you do to be a police officer, and they told me you have to work hard,” Shawn said.
Andre Hazzard (from left), Shawn Garrett and Jamar Price are a part of the Englewood Police Youth Baseball League. [Provided/Nicole Johnson]
Those kinds of conversations and interactions have always been the goal, organizers said. The league, which is in its third year, has worked with 120 children ages 9-12. They are divided into six teams. Thanks to sponsor Get In Chicago, the players don't have to pay anything to play.
Andrea NaTay, owner of Forever Fitness Chicago, and Teamwork Englewood established the league and continue to manage it. Other support comes from the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Park District.
The teams are coached by current and retired police officers and members of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
The league is about more than baseball, said Jermont Montgomery, the league’s program manager.
A coach talks to players as part of the Englewood Police/Youth Baseball League in 2015. [DNAinfo/Andrea Watson]
The police and those who’ve retired are able to mentor the players, and they discuss police and community relations, he said.
“The program was born out of the need for better relations between children and police,” Montgomery said.
The players participate in mentoring and personal development workshops, covering topics such as setting goals and value setting, nutrition and conflict resolution, he said.
“These young people are gaining more than just baseball skills: they are also cultivating positive connections who will mentor and support them this summer and beyond,” said Toni Irving, executive director of Get IN Chicago. “The police youth baseball collaborative has the potential to create positive ripples throughout Englewood for years to come.”
More than half of the kids are returning players.
Andre Hazzard, 9, said his mother signed him up to play, and he’s looking forward to competing and going on the trips. The Chicago Cubs have supported the team since the beginning
Jamar Price, 12, is also new to the team.
“I’m excited to meet new people,” he said.
He said that “it’s good” the police officers are involved.
“We’re on our way to solving some of these problems in the community, and if we stick to it, there’s nothing we can’t do to stop violence,” said Marco Johnson, founder of Stomping Out Drugs and Gangs Chicago Police Athletic League.
Montgomery said he would like to see more police volunteers as well as a sustainability program to ensure that the league continues.
The league kicked off with clinics and drills last month.
Opening day begins at 4 p.m. June 29 at Hamilton Park Cultural Center 513 W. 72nd St. Practices and games are held at the park from 5-7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.