Results tagged ‘ Youth Baseball Academy ’
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 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.
In 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 physical 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.”
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.
During 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 Allen 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 www.19forlife.org.
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.”
Later 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).
“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.”
The 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.”
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.