Archive for the ‘ Youth Baseball Academy ’ Category

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred visits the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy

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by Kyle Mann

In his introductory letter to baseball fans, less than two weeks ago, new Commissioner of Major League Baseball Rob Manfred made it clear that expanding youth baseball and softball programs, particularly in underserved areas, will be one of his core areas of focus.

As his January 25 letter stated:

“My top priority is to bring more people into our game — at all levels and from all communities. Specifically, I plan to make the game more accessible to those in underserved areas, especially in the urban areas where fields and infrastructure are harder to find. Giving more kids the opportunity to play will inspire a new generation to fall in love with baseball just as we did when we were kids.”

Commissioner of Major League Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. visits the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball AcademyCommissioner Manfred followed up on his promise by visiting the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy on Wednesday afternoon. In town serving as the keynote speaker at the Nationals Partner Summit earlier in the day, the Commissioner made his way to Ward 7’s Fort Dupont Park to tour the Academy and visit with staff members and scholar-athletes.

The Youth Baseball Academy’s mission, to use baseball and softball as vehicles to foster positive character development, academic achievement, and improved health among youth from at-risk communities in D.C., dovetails with Commissioner Manfred’s key goal of making the game more accessible in those areas. With a high school dropout rate of more than 60 percent in Wards 7 & 8, the areas the Youth Baseball Academy serves, its focus on providing personalized academic attention and mentoring, along with baseball and softball instruction, address this issue head-on.

Commissioner of Major League Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. visits the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball AcademyIn a visit initially scheduled for his third day in office (which was postponed due to snow) the Commissioner received a tour of the facility from Academy Executive Director Tal Alter and scholar-athletes Duane Dargin and JaNia Jackson. Commissioner Manfred’s tour of the 18,000 square foot facility included stops in one of the seven classrooms, the facility’s state-of-the-art teaching kitchen, the observation deck that overlooks all three fields, and the one-of-a-kind multi-purpose training indoor/outdoor training space.

One of the cornerstone programs of the Washington Nationals Youth Dream Foundation — chaired by Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, one of the Nationals’ Principal Owners — the Youth Baseball Academy works with scholar-athletes in third through eighth grade. This structure enables scholar-athletes to start high school with the tools necessary not only to graduate, but to attend, and succeed, in college. The Youth Baseball Academy is focused on instilling a love of Commissioner of Major League Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. visits the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academyphysical activity and utilizes baseball and softball to teach the qualities of teamwork, determination and resiliency to help scholar-athletes overcome the challenges of poverty and reach their full potential.

This thorough and well-rounded approach was important to Tanenbaum when she developed the Youth Baseball Academy, and sets it apart from pure baseball academies. 

While in one of the classrooms, Commissioner Manfred spoke with Christine Jackson, one of the Youth Baseball Academy’s 90 mentors — each of whom volunteer two hours a week, 25 weeks per year. Jackson, a former teacher, struck a cord with the Commissioner when she spoke of how she focuses on creating an inter-generational connection between scholar-athletes and former Negro League baseball players to develop a love for baseball and education.

As he wrapped up his visit, Commissioner Manfred mentioned how he’s, “Always happy to be in Washington, a special market for us in the nation’s capital,” but, “This visit (to the Youth Baseball Academy) is really important to me.”

“What the Nationals have done here is unbelievable,” he said. “(It) promotes goals of participation and diversity. This is Major League Baseball and one of its teams at its best. I cannot commend the Nationals and Lerner family enough.”

Commissioner of Major League Baseball Robert D. Manfred, Jr. visits the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy

Mentoring: A Grand Slam Experience

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By John Walls
YBA Mentor

John Walls with Scholar AthleteOne hour. You’d be surprised how much you can get done and what a difference you can make in that time. For about as long as it takes to watch my favorite Netflix show, the time I spend mentoring at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy is giving me the chance to make a positive difference in the lives of young people, and to form relationships I hope will last for years to come.

As part of the Academy’s mission of focusing on helping youngsters in some of D.C.’s more challenging areas develop better academic and life skills, mentors in language arts, math, and science work regularly with scholar-athletes. I’ve been working with fourth graders Chalore and Kayla since the fall, and we just added Mikael to our group last week.

They’re quite a bunch! Sure, we might not always get through every lesson plan. Conversations about school, movies, dance teams, or whatever, tend to weave through the time we spend together. And I’ll admit, I’m not always sure I’m getting through to them.

But then you have one of those moments.

The eyes light up. The giggle’s for real. Or you can genuinely sense their pride when you give them a “Great Job!” when working through a nightly reading assignment. You know that being there, when you’re supposed to be, just for them, and really listening to what they have to say is making a difference.

That’s what mentoring is all about.

It’s a blessing to have the chance to be a positive role model for young people who really need that in their lives. The Academy is playing a vital role in the community, and it really is a privilege to be a part of it. You can watch Netflix any time, but you can make a difference in a child’s life, right now.  Give it a try!

YBA - Girls

January is National Mentorship Month, a great opportunity to highlight the work of theWashington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy – a new, state of the art education and recreation facility in Southeast D.C. – where Nats players and community volunteers alike have forged strong mentoring relationships with youth from at-risk communities.

For more information on how you can serve as a mentor at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy please visit:

No Excuses Mentoring: What you give is what you get

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By Christine Jackson
YBA Mentor

My plate is full. My schedule is already very tight. I can’t fit another thing into my life. I’m super busy!

20150127_190417All of these are valid excuses for NOT mentoring. But, at some point, when a little bit of time suddenly appears in your schedule, then what will your excuse be? While we are feeding our minds with how hectic our lives are, there are so many young people starving to get a little one-on-one time with one of us!

I came to this realization as I considered whether I could commit to mentor one night a week at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.  Of course, I made a mental note of my daily full-time work schedule and all the other items on my to do list. I remembered how exhausted I was after teaching school every day (over 20 years ago).  The list of excuses kept growing, but eventually, I made a decision to make a difference.

The factors that lead to students dropping out by ninth grade are well documented. As a parent of two young-adult children, I was familiar with the impact that significant adult relationships had on my children as they navigated through adolescence. I also know first-hand, growing up in D.C.’s Ward 8, how easily a child can slip through the cracks or become a victim of substandard education and low socio-economic conditions.  I was fortunate enough to have strong relationships with many adults, especially my parents, who forced me to read books throughout the summer, re-do homework until it was correct, and encouraged me to explore creative writing to express my vivid imagination far beyond the dismal condition of my immediate community that I saw on a daily basis.

So Tuesday nights became more beneficial to me as I saw the faces of Charles, Levon and Andre light up whenever I engaged them in a conversation about their lives. A little game time playing UNO or tackling brain teasers also helps to stimulate a little healthy competition! My momentary weariness quickly fades into their excitement each week. In fact, I know my words of encouragement and affirmation will stay with them long after this mentoring year ends.

It’s rewarding to be among the cadre of mentors who give to the lives of our scholar athletes each week with the realistic expectation that there will be a return on the investment manifested in the productive lives of our mentees!


YBA - Main Field Logo

January is National Mentorship Month, a great opportunity to highlight the work of theWashington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy – a new, state of the art education and recreation facility in Southeast D.C. – where Nats players and community volunteers alike have forged strong mentoring relationships with youth from at-risk communities.

For more information on how you can serve as a mentor at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy please visit:

Step Up To The Plate: Inspiration Comes in Small Packages

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By Margaret “Marg.” Clark
YBA Mentor

With a trio of “scholar-athletes,” I spent my Wednesday evenings last fall at the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy reading, writing and talking about baseball heroes and their inspiring legacies. If we completed our weekly lesson early, we’d head to the YBA training room to play tag, do pushups and compare muscles. (The young men were much impressed with my willingness to run the gym with them and show off my toned 64-year-old biceps!)

Marg with Scholar AthletesWhen I signed up to serve as a mentor, I worried that my young charges would not find an “old white woman” to be very relatable, and might be jealous of groups that got cool young guys as mentors. If that is the case, it is not apparent to me. From the very beginning, Rocco, Daniel, and Joshua greeted me with hugs, smiles and enthusiasm, and openness to both learning and getting to know each other.  And for 10 weeks or so, we did exactly that.

Rocco, all focused attention, Daniel, clever and quick, and Josh, alert to everything going on around him—all third graders, all scholar-athletes and each uniquely himself—left it all out on the baseball diamond and in the classroom, week after week.

After a long holiday break, I decided to spend our first meeting of 2015 making collages about a person who inspired us. I saw it as a way to revisit some of the material we had had covered and get reacquainted as we drew, cut and pasted.

Who would I depict as my inspiration? No question: my scholar-athletes. Here are some of the cutout words I pasted into my collage to describe them:

  • Energy
  • Courage
  • Confidence
  • Special
  • Love to talk
  • Leave ordinary behind

During a mentor training session on cultural competency, we were encouraged to view ourselves not as benevolent givers, but as partners in a rewarding two-way relationship. Good advice!  But even if I hadn’t been so instructed, it was quickly obvious to me that I was getting every bit as much or more than I was giving.

YBA - Entrance

January is National Mentorship Month, a great opportunity to highlight the work of theWashington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy – a new, state of the art education and recreation facility in Southeast D.C. – where Nats players and community volunteers alike have forged strong mentoring relationships with youth from at-risk communities.

For more information on how you can serve as a mentor at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy please visit:

Step Up To The Plate: Celebrating National Mentorship Month at the Nationals’ Youth Baseball Academy

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by Tal Alter

Over 20 years ago, Charles Barkley kicked up a national debate about the impact of professional athletes in society.  “I am not a role model,” he famously quipped.

While the indirect effect of professional athletes on kids might be up for debate, what’s absolutely clear is the meaningful difference a direct and consistent mentor can make in the lives of kids who need positive influences.

January is National Mentorship Month, a great opportunity to highlight the work of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy – a new, state of the art education and recreation facility in Southeast D.C. – where Nats players and community volunteers alike have forged strong mentoring relationships with youth from at-risk communities.

Tal Alter pic for mentoring blogAt the Academy, we call these young people our “scholar-athletes” – a term that reflects our two-fold commitment to helping them become physically fit and develop baseball skills, but also achieve academic success, enhanced confidence, and – ultimately – become young men and women of character.

All of our scholar-athletes live in either Ward 7 or 8, neighborhoods experiencing the challenges of high crime and poverty rates.  In these areas, fewer than 30% of elementary school students receive proficient test scores in math and reading, with astonishing high school dropout rates. Of youth who complete the 8th grade in these two Wards, 60% have vanished from the system by 10th grade.

These harsh realities can seem overwhelming and disheartening. But with a mentor at their side, our scholar-athletes are empowered to triumph over these statistics. At-risk youth who have a mentor in their lives are 81% more likely to report participating regularly in sports or extracurricular activities.  They’re more than twice as likely to hold a leadership position in a club or team.  They’re more than 55% more likely to be enrolled in college than those who don’t have a mentor.

But approximately 9 million at-risk youth will reach age 19 without ever having a mentor, thus missing out on a relationship that could positively change the arc of their future.

We’re helping to close that gap at Nats Academy, where community volunteers turn out every night to serve as coaches, tutors and mentors for our scholar-athletes. They are dedicated to being a real, consistent and positive presence.

Over the coming weeks, we’re going to introduce you to some of these remarkable individuals. People who’ve made the decision to stand-up and declare “I am a role model,” and are putting those words into action.   They’ll be guest bloggers here on the Curly W blog – giving their first-hand perspective on the Nats Academy and the role they play in the lives of the young men and women we serve.

We hope their stories inspire you to become a mentor – at the Nats Academy or wherever you have a chance to make a positive difference in the life of a young person.

For more information on how you can serve as a mentor at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy please visit:


Barrett, Frandsen visit MedStar Georgetown University Hospital & Nationals Youth Baseball Academy

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by Kyle Mann

Washington Nationals reliever Aaron Barrett and utility man Kevin Frandsen made the most of their respective visits to D.C. for NatsFest last weekend, coming in a day early to brighten the spirits of local children.

Barrett and Frandsen started their day on Friday, Dec. 12 by visiting with patients battling life-threatening illnesses at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital at its annual Hope for Henry Foundation’s Winter Wonderland Holiday Party. They followed that up with a visit to the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, located in Ward 7’s Fort Dupont Park.

gingerbread nats park with barrett and frandsenDuring the hospital visit, the players, and their wives, visited patient rooms and took part in fun activities with the children, including participating in a photo station and decorating a gingerbread replica of Nationals Park — complete with Racing Presidents. The stunning detail put into the gingerbread Nationals Park illustrated the level of care Hope for Henry and MedStar Georgetown put forth in preparing the entire day for the children and their families.

Hope for Henry, a charitable organization founded by Laurie Strongin and Gingerbread nats parkAllen Goldberg in 2003 following the loss of their son Henry to Fancolni anemia, made the visit special for everyone. When going through years of treatments with Henry, they noticed how much visits, parties, and even cupcakes and pizza meant to Henry, so they decided to focus on lifting the spirits of other children suffering with life-threatening diseases and their families.

Frandsen spent the much of his time focusing on the siblings of patients during his visit.

As a child, he spent a lot of time accompanying his brother, DJ, who passed away in 2004, to the hospital. After DJ’s passing, Frandsen started ’19 for Life’ to honor his brother. For more on his foundation, visit

Frandsen said he felt a connection with Henry’s brother, Joseph, who attended the holiday party.

“To see Henry’s brother, Joe — at 13 — put everything on and raise the money to do it all was a totally different experience,” Frandsen said. “What Joe did today was unbelievable.”

Barrett at YBA 2Later in the afternoon, Frandsen and Barrett visited the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. Both players felt compelled to return after visiting the Academy this past summer and coaching scholar-athletes in the Summer Academy Program.

During the visit, the players provided some hands-on baseball instruction and each took part in a Q&A session. Based on the hard-hitting questions asked of Barrett, some of the Academy’s scholar-athletes may have a future as Nationals beat writers.

The “Bear” was asked to name the entire Nationals roster (he went position by position with aplomb), if he was friends with Ian Desmond (of course), and perhaps the toughest question of all, would he rather eat a toenail or dog food (he begrudgingly answered dog food).

Frandsen at YBADespite the good-natured ribbing, Barrett once again came away impressed by the Academy and its scholar-athletes.

“It’s a great facility — certainly the nicest I’ve seen,” Barrett said. “It was fun to interact with kids and teach them some things I was taught at their age. It’s wonderful how the Academy focuses on education and nutrition as well as baseball.”

Frandsen estimated it was the fourth or fifth time he’s visited.

“It’s always enjoyable coming here,” he said. “Some of the kids remember you and you can get to know their names, which has been great. I’ve been on a lot of teams (that focus on) kids in the community, but never with one central academy like this, in this Ward where they need it.”

Barrett at YBA 1The goals of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy are to use baseball and softball to foster positive character development, academic achievement and improved health among at-risk Washington, D.C. youth. Frandsen said the fact that it all can happen at one facility is one of the many standout qualities of the Academy.

“There is a common goal,” Frandsen said. “It’s a spot for education, tutors, they teach teamwork, eating right and all of this is accomplished at a common location to work together to help to achieve all of these goals.”

Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy Looking for Mentors

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by Kyle Mann

As the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy (WNYBA) enters its second year of core programming, the organization is looking for qualified volunteers from the community to support its academic enrichment programs.

The commitment for mentors is two hours, one day per week, and it is important that mentors are able to commit each week so they can become role models for the program’s scholar-athletes. These mentors will build a rich community that exposes young scholars to new perspectives and many forms of support. Mentors, in turn, are rewarded with the experience of making a dramatic and clear impact on the lives of young people.

Those who are interested, please see below, or visit the WNYBA website to apply. Applications received by September 5 will receive priority consideration.

The WNYBA is located at 3675 Ely Place SE. Street parking is available, and a shuttle is provided from the Stadium-Armory Metro (Orange/Blue/Silver lines) at 5:30 pm.

Washington NationalsGeneral Information:
Creative programming, based on nationally acclaimed models, will help boys and girls:
• Develop a passion for and skill in the game of baseball.
• Improve English Language Arts, Science and Mathematics outcomes.
• Be physically active, learn about nutrition and how to cook healthy foods.
• Grow through the years with an organization committed to their success.

Teaching Mentors Commitment:
: Teach a small group of third, fourth, or fifth graders in a core academic subject: Math (STEM), English Language Arts, or BrainFood (only available Thursdays) using provided baseball-themed lessons.
When: One night per week: (Tuesdays: 6:00 – 7:45 pm; Wednesdays: 6:00 – 7:45 pm; Thursdays: 4:00- 6:00 pm or 6:00 – 7:45 pm (as a Brain Food Assistant!)) plus 1 hour of lesson preparation per week.

Mentors do not need to have any prior teaching experience to be a mentor and the curriculum is pre-developed and highly-structured. All we ask of you is your time and your energy. You will be a role model to your scholars, and you will play an important part in their lives as you develop relationships with them.

• Ability to make an academic year long commitment, September to May.
• Ability to lead engaging activities and lessons.
• Complete an interview, background check process, and TB Test.
• Flexibility and willingness to learn and attend all required trainings.

The following qualities are preferred but not required:
• Experience working with youth.
• Experience with curriculum and instruction.
• A working knowledge of the rules of baseball/softball.


Nationals players make final day of Summer Academy at YBA a memorable one

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 Washington Nationals

by Kyle Mann

On the final day of its Summer Academy Program, the scholar-athletes at the Washington Nationals’ Youth Baseball Academy had a few special visitors.

Aaron Barrett, Ian Desmond, Kevin Frandsen, Scott Hairston and Adam LaRoche visited the YBA on Friday morning, and though the experience was surely one the nearly-100 scholar-athletes participating would never forget, the Nationals players may have been the ones most impacted.

“It’s been a blast to be here,” LaRoche said of the Academy, a place he referred to as ‘The Disneyland of Baseball.’ “It was two hours of nothing but fun and smiles.”

The schedule for the day included games played simultaneously on the Academy’s three fields, one overseen by Hairston and his two sons, Dallas and Landon, one run by LaRoche and his daughter, Montana, and another by Barrett and Frandsen.

Desmond, who hosts a group of 20 Academy scholar-athletes at Nationals Park every month during the season as part of his Ian’s Academy All-Stars program, is also a Youth Baseball Academy Board Member. Serving in a role best described as roving fun instructor, he rotated between fields, alternating teaching proper footwork around the second base bag and giving one-on-one pep talks to future stars.

“All we can do is try to make an impact,” Desmond said. “It’s good for the kids, the parents, it’s all positive.”

While the constant chants supporting every batter emphasized how much fun this day was for the kids, Summer Academy coach Travaughn Kinney reminded his team about the importance of striving to be your best.

“Focus on having fun, but we love to win,” he told his team as they took the field.

Kinney, a two-sport college athlete from D.C., discussed the importance of baseball for children as part of their development.

“Baseball teaches patience, and kids from (this area) need that,” he said. “Baseball truly requires a team, and that’s my favorite part about the game.”

The Youth Baseball Academy is about a lot more than baseball, and the Summer Academy program is no exception. An integral part of the YBA’s year-round youth development program, the Summer Academy provides a safe, fun, and active learning environment that furthers its mission to use baseball and softball as vehicles to develop literacy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills. The program also teaches scholar-athletes how to lead healthy lifestyles through fitness, proper nutrition and cooking lessons in a safe, nurturing environment.

The scholar-athletes partaking in the Summer Academy included rising fourth and fifth graders who participated in the Academy’s inaugural After-School Program, and rising third graders who started with the first Summer Academy.

In future years, Academy attendees will matriculate through the eighth grade while a class of rising third graders is added. To supplement learning at the Academy, the scholar-athletes took part in weekly experiential-learning field trips, including to the United States Botanic Gardens, the Smithsonian’s Discovery Theater and the National Zoo.

But playing baseball with their favorite Nationals on the program’s final day may have offered the biggest highlight.

Here’s a photo gallery from the day:



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