Wednesday evening marked the continuation of the “Badges for Baseball” program at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County at 1 Positive Place.
The program is a collaboration between the clubs and the Gainesville Police Department, and sponsored by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.
Jashad Dabney, 9, who participated in the program both years, summed up the program like this: “The policemen come to teach us about baseball and how to make good choices.”
Dabney also plays pitcher for a Gainesville City league team, he said.
Cpl. Joseph Britte, a spokesman for Gainesville police, praised the program’s community-building nature.
“It’s a win-win. You have officers mentoring kids, and there’s a full curriculum to this program,” he said.
The curriculum, called “healthy kids, healthy choices,” runs eight weeks and is something all the kids in the program complete.
“It teaches kids to make good choices out there, and in the process incorporate baseball, something fun, something active for the kids,” Britte said.
Although the type of baseball the kids played was not of the standard stop-and-go baseball you see on TV. Instead, they expended their energy playing a high-energy take on baseball the program calls “Quickball.”
“Quickball is the ultimate game. It’s a fast-paced game, you can get a lot of kids involved, they just love it. You always have to be on top of your toes,” said Chuck Graham, director of operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs.
Last year, 150 kids participated in the program, Graham said. This year, that number is closer to 250.
The resources for the program come from the Cal Ripken Sr. program.
Cal Ripken Sr. is the father of well-known baseball player Cal Ripken Jr., a longtime Baltimore Orioles star.
Last year, the club had the opportunity to take eight kids and two officers to Maryland for a leadership camp with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.
They will have that opportunity again this year, Graham said.
In the end, the program is about building community with the police department.
“The biggest impact was the relationship I’ve seen develop between the officers and our kids.” Graham said.
“Baseball is just the hook. More so we’re looking at trying to forge those relationships between the officers and our kids. And it’s working.”