INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A home run program designed to keep kids in downtown Indianapolis off the streets is looking for a few good people and a whole lot of children.
On a Friday night in winter, warm summer nights spent on the baseball diamond seem a world away, but it’s coming fast.
A program at Garfield Regional Park is already signing kids up. They don’t want to turn a single kid away, no matter their ability to pay the fee. Organizers want to make this year the biggest and best one yet.
“It’s near and dear to my heart,” said parent and coach Jennifer Payton, president of Garfield RBI — that’s an acronym for Major League Baseball’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program — is signing up kids from ages 3-15.
This year, for the first time, there’s even a T-ball program.
“We’re basically trying to keep the kids off the streets,” Payton said. “We’re trying to give them something to look forward to, something to start their day, to make new friends.”
As well as to provide an outlet, and build great citizens and baseball players at the same time.
The cost is $25 and that covers a hat and shirt for each player.
“It’s expensive to to put a child in a team at a lot of places. Here, it’s not,” Payton said. “We won’t turn anybody away no matter.”
All skill levels, boys and girls, most show up having never played before. There’s also a softball program.
What most learn in addition to the throwing and catching is cooperation, teamwork and coping skills they can take with them. There’s plenty of adults around to help if there’s something they can’t get at it alone.
“If they don’t feel like they can go to their parents, they have their coaches, they have the president, they have the vice president, they have the board, and we’re all here specifically for them,” Payton said.
There’s also RBI programs at four other locations around the city: Rhodius, Forest Manor, Riverside and Christian parks, with a total kid enrollment of about 1,000 kids.
“It’s not about who wins or loses, it’s about having fun,” Payton said.
She adds practices won’t begin until the first week of May, but sign-ups for the Garfield RBI program are underway. They happen from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. every Saturday through the end of March at the family center at Garfield Regional Park, but they will accept children all the way up to May.
Payton said the program is always looking for more sponsors, for both teams and individual players.