Nationals unveil Youth Baseball Academy
by Amanda Comak
The moment was a long time coming. It took years of vision, attention to detail and a commitment to build something truly unique.
But Saturday morning, even a little rain couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the entire Washington Nationals organization as the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy was officially unveiled with a ribbon cutting ceremony in advance of the team’s exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers at Nationals Park.
“I’m elated,” Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, one of the Nationals’ Principal Owners and Co-Chair of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy Board, told reporters. “I don’t even know what the words are for (my feelings today). It’s been a long time coming so I’m really trying to savor the morning.”
The Academy is a year-round educational and athletic facility designed to provide quality after-school and summer learning programs for boys and girls in Washington, D.C. neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.
It is the result of a unique public-private partnership that includes the Washington Nationals, the Nationals Dream Foundation, the D.C. government, Events DC, the National Park Service and the local business and philanthropic community.
The Academy uses baseball and softball as vehicles to help develop literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills, as well as healthy lifestyles through fitness, proper nutrition and cooking lessons in a safe, nurturing environment. Program partners include Higher Achievement and Brainfood.
The facility features three playing fields and an 18,000 square foot “educational clubhouse” with year-round batting cages, seven classrooms, a cutting-edge teaching kitchen and community event space.
“Our thinking right off the bat was that we’re modeling it after an organization in Harlem called RBI, and their focus is on academics,” Tanenbaum said. “The idea is that baseball and softball are wonderful. And creating a culture for baseball and softball in the inner-city is essential. But you need to support it with academics.
“Upstairs (at the Youth Baseball Academy) you’ll see eight beautiful classrooms and a teaching kitchen. That’s really the core of what we feel we’re providing to the community. The after-school mentoring and after-school academic enrichment is just essential. Of course, we’re the Washington Nationals, so baseball and softball is pretty important, too.”
The entire Washington Nationals’ roster, along with manager Matt Williams and his coaching staff, as well as the front office and ownership, attended Saturday’s ceremony. Invited guests included D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray; Deputy Secretary Michael L. Connor, Department of the Interior; Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton; D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson; D.C. Councilmember Yvette Alexander; Events DC President and CEO Greg O’Dell; and Nationals Youth Baseball Academy Chair Rodney Slater.