MS. REBECCA SHEIR
As July marches on, we're a little more than halfway through baseball season.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Baseball has, of course, long been known as America's pastime. For children in some of D.C.'s poorest neighborhoods though, baseball is a pastime in which they've never had the chance to partake. But, as Heather Taylor tells us, one local baseball camp is working to change that.
MS. HEATHER TAYLOR
Stroll by the well-tended baseball field at Friendship Playground in northwest Washington this summer and if you're not a baseball-loving kid, you'll probably wish you were. Blue and white bleacher stands are full of pint-sized campers raring to go, getting a pep talk from Coach Dan Thorner.
MR. DAN THORNER
The theme of the day, feel good, be positive and try and help a teammate out.
This is Home Run Baseball Camp, a kind of baseball lover's paradise with a very simple mission, to provide a safe, nurturing environment, where kids between the ages of 4 and 12 can learn baseball skills. This summer marks the camp's 20th summer in Northwest D.C., but founder John McCarthy says camps like this shouldn't just be available to those who can afford it. And so he's developed a camp program with Savoy Elementary in southeast D.C. It's part of the Building Bridges Through Baseball initiative.
We welcome 20 to 30 youngsters from Wards 8 and Ward 7, who may not have a chance to go to good baseball camps. We also have a reading component. So they spend some time during the day reading. You see youngsters who get a chance to grow on the baseball field, bond with our coaches, bond with each other.
The camp's other partners include George Washington University, D.C. Parks and Recreation, and the mayor's office. McCarthy thinks programs like it can have great benefit for one big reason.
If we're going to move society forward, we all have to do things to build bridges and welcome people, reach out and create common ground with other people. And the easiest people to do that with is children.
McCarthy says his thinking was inspired by his family.
My father was a writer about social justice, Colman McCarthy, and my uncle was a journalist who wrote about social justice. And so when I was a youngster I was exposed to my father covering people who he called on the margins of society. And we met a lot of heroic people. My dad would say, "Those people are serving others. There are people that are trying to change society through their personal force and service."
And why baseball?
It forces you to understand that you're part of a bigger picture and that you must put the team first and work on your skills in building teamwork. It's a more welcoming sport because many different kids of all different backgrounds and skill level, you might be able to find a way you can contribute.
But achieving a successful program isn't without challenges.
A youngster can come visit Friendship Playground as a guest camper and come to Homerun Baseball Camp, but some of the issues in their life come with them. And they need to be able to learn to develop the tools to help process that.
McCarthy attributes the program's success to staff members like Cameron Windham.
MR. CAMERON WINDHAM
The most challenging kids to work with were the ones who just felt a little more uncomfortable than others. My role was just more a matter of just trying to gain trust.
John McCarthy considers Windham a kindred spirit because of his high level of social consciousness. And like McCarthy, Windham credits his father.
My dad was always a very social conscious person. He always encourages me to help out the community any way we can.
Looking ahead, John McCarthy says he'd like the city to challenge other camps to develop similar programs for needy kids. And…
You know, I would hope that if Jackie Robinson or Sargent Shriver came to my camp, they would say, hey, I like that program. And they would ask me some critical questions about it, how can we make it better.
Just the kind of questions that inspire McCarthy and his Homerun Baseball Camp staff to keep pushing ahead. I'm Heather Taylor.
Up next, how D.C.'s transgender community is inspiring a world premier play, "The Tea Party."
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1
When the project started I took tea from transgender. And in this most recent incarnation, I was standing in for transformation.
Plus, finding fashion inspiration in Washington when the mercury rises.
MR. JUSTIN GIST PREUNINGER
Today I'm wearing a tan and white striped seersucker, but I paired it also with a sailboat Nantucket red ascot.
It's just ahead on "Metro Connection," on WAMU 88.5.
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