Kids learn from experts, at ‘Baseball Day’

Here’s why kids from all over the area came to outer East Portland to pitch, catch, and run, at Lents Park …

Arriving at Charles B. Walker Stadium at Lents Park, budding baseball players sign in and receive gifts, as they head over to the “Play Ball Portland Clinic”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

That the weather cold and blustery didn’t stop more than 125 kids from coming out to Walker Stadium on October 7, for the “Play Ball Portland Clinic”.

The event, put on by the nonprofit group Friends of Baseball, partnered with the Major League Baseball Play Ball initiative and the US Conference of Mayors, was timely – with the professional baseball playoffs just beginning.

Friends of Baseball Executive Director Nova Newcomer spends a moment with volunteer coaches Renner Stecki, Caleb Nutting, Berry Hunt, Cody Gleason, Javondre Cole, John Hovious, and Adam Cohen.

Friends of Baseball enhances children’s lives through baseball’s power to teach, and by providing afterschool and summer programs with the help of trained volunteer coaches and mentors,” remarked the organization’s executive director, Nova Newcomer. “We want more kids to have access to active sports, because there’s been an 8% decline over the last eight years in team sport participation.”

On hand to greet the kids is Portland Pickles mascot, Dillon.

Fewer kids playing team sports can be attributed both to low income and lack of access, she said. “We want to make sure that the sport of baseball is accessible to youth and their families in all parts of Portland.”

On hand to kick off the midday clinic was Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who read a proclamation passed by the Portland City Council, declaring the day to be “Play Ball Day”.

Before proclaiming it to be “Play Ball Day”, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler pauses for a photo, flanked by Major League Baseball VP of Youth Initiatives David James, and Portland Pickles manager Bill Stewart.

“This is a really great opportunity for kids in Southeast Portland neighborhoods,” Wheeler told East Portland News. “This helps the City, because it helps engage young people in athletics; baseball is a platform for bringing people together, bringing families together, encouraging kids to get away from video games and be active.”

Young baseball players flood onto the field as their activates begin.

The baseball clinic gave him a welcome break from dealing with Portland being called “Tent City USA”, and other issues, Wheeler reflected. “This is blissfully different from what I get asked during the week!

“I understand why people are and angry about the homeless situation, and transportation congestion, and these other major issues, I get that,” Wheeler went on. “But, there are also a lot of great things happening in our community, and it’s important for us all to step back, and recognize these opportunities.”

ayden Brown, a middle school student from Oregon City, keeps his eye on that rapidly-approaching ball.

On their way in, each child received a T-shirt, wristband, and Franklin plastic bat and ball set.

After hearing the dignitaries and taking a “team photo” together, the kids divided up into game stations, where they batted balls, ran the bases, and practiced catching.

Even this “running the bases” game seems fun to participants.

With the help of more than a dozen coaches, the youngsters spent the next two hours learning more about the game of baseball and having fun.

To learn more about Friends of Baseball, see their website: CLICK HERE to see it.

© 2017 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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