“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
Two years ago I started a recess baseball club at Hemmeter Elementary School. It was a way for me to share my passion for baseball with the students while also building relationships. When kids see their principal in a t-shirt, shorts, and Detroit Tigers baseball cap, it allows them to see you through a different lens. I first wrote about recess baseball club in the following blog post:
I noticed that sometime around the beginning of April, the kids were buzzing on the playground about baseball. Not a day would go by that someone didn’t ask, “Are we doing recess baseball club again this year?” I set the dates for each day in May and decided to see if I could find some community support to help with recess baseball this year. A friend suggested contacting a new Collegiate Summer Baseball team that had just formed in Saginaw, the Saginaw Sugar Beets. I was hoping that we could get them to come out for one recess baseball game to play with the students. I knew the students would think it was awesome to play with some real college baseball players. The community has amazing potential to provide wonderful experiences to students, all you have to do is just reach out and ask.
I met with a representative from the Sugar Beets the following week. We talked about the team coming to Saginaw and how they really wanted to put roots in the community. They wanted to be more than just a local baseball team; they wanted to help grow a love for baseball with kids in the community as well. I told him about our recess baseball club and asked if the players would be willing to visit for a day to play with the students. He loved the idea, but asked if we would be interested in having the Sugar Beets more involved. Of course I was!
After a 45 minute brainstorming session, ideas for a way to form an awesome partnership between the Sugar Beets and Hemmeter Elementary were created. The Sugar Beets agreed to send players to every single recess baseball club game in May. The students were so excited for the first day, and the Sugar Beet players didn’t disappoint. I was immediately impressed with how well the players connected with the students. They took time to talk to each student. They would talk about video games, school work, and (of course) baseball. They were always positive and genuinely interested in each student and the students loved talking to them. The following two interactions impressed me the most and really show the great community and school partnership that was formed during this experience.
A kindergarten student was swinging at pitch after pitch, but the result was miss after miss. The kindergarten student told him, “I never hit the ball. I haven’t hit it once in my tee ball games yet.” The Sugar Beet pitcher came over to the player and asked him his name and where he played tee ball. He showed him how he was chopping at the ball and explained in kid-friendly language why chopping made it hard to hit the ball. He corrected his stance and had him take some level practice swings. He asked the student when his next tee ball game was before going back to pitching. Sure enough, after a couple more misses, the student started hitting the ball fairly consistently. Two days later, I heard the player call the student over, by name, and ask him how his tee ball game went the night before and if he got a hit. He did. The Sugar Beets players see over 200 students during their time at recess baseball club. The fact that he remembered the student’s name and the day of his next tee ball game shows how invested the players were in the students.
During the same week, I watched another Sugar Beet player working one on one with a student on pitching. The student told him he was going to be pitching for the first time ever in his Little League game. The player took the time to show him some tricks of the trade to help his first experience be a successful one. After the practice, the Sugar Beet player that was working with him asked me where South Little League was located because if he got done with a meeting early, he wanted to go watch the student pitch. This Sugar Beet player was going to watch a student pitch in his Little League game. That is the powerful bond that can be formed when you build community and school relationships. Can you imagine that students excitement when a Sugar Beet player showed up to his Little League game?
The Sugar Beet players had such a great time at recess ball club that they offered to do some after school camps for the students. The camps provided fun, high-quality instruction on the basics in softball and baseball. At the end of camp, I was blown away when the Sugar Beets said they had a surprise for the students. They provided every student that participated in the camp with a Sugar Beets t-shirt, bubblegum, and two tickets to the first Sugar Beets game. Furthermore, they gave the students a code so they could get $4 tickets to all Sugar Beets games during the season. All of this was done as a complete surprise. The organization said the players had enjoyed their time so much that they wanted to do something nice for the kids and were so excited to see the kids they had gotten to know over the past month at the games cheering them on.
Recess baseball club continues to be an experience the kids look forward to each year. I am so glad that I reached out to the Saginaw Sugar Beets to form a community partnership this year. It has been a great relationship for all of us. This wonderful experience already has me thinking about more relationship building we can do next year in the community. These partnerships provide experiences that we will never forget.