11/26/08 4:00 PM EST
Braves teach baseball, more to kids
Club's charity youth league brings game to inner-city children
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
This marked the fourth year that inner-city children were able to participate in the Junior Braves Baseball League. But it marked the first in which the Braves joined both the YMCA and the Boys & Girls Club of America. The union of these two parties equated to a league that accommodated approximately 2,000 kids.
"Every year, we look to make a large impact in the community," Braves director of community relations Erika Newsome said. "We're looking to expand our outreach and our fan baseball. Youth baseball and softball allow us to reach out to the children and teach them values that extend beyond baseball."
Before an April 6 game against the Mets, the Braves staged a Coaches Clinic for the JBBL coaches. General manager Frank Wren, special assistant Bobby Dews, third-base coach Brian Snitker and members of the team's medical staff participated in the event, which was aimed at providing insight about the game, nutrition and injury prevention.
In August, the top players from the JBBL were given the opportunity to play a game at Turner Field.
The Braves also once again organized a She Can Play program, aimed at promoting the game toward girls ages 9-12. The highlight of this year's two-day workshop came when Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin arrived and spoke to the young females.
"We're all over Metro Atlanta demonstrating commitment to the community," Newsome said.
This also marked the fourth year that the Braves have partnered with D.H. Stanton Elementary, which is located close to Turner Field. Newsome said that 36 team employees have tutored and mentored fifth-grade students on a weekly basis this year.
In addition to the mentoring program, the Braves have organized field trips for the students and also instituted a "Healthy Fathers, Healthy Families" program aimed toward promoting healthy lifestyles for the students' fathers.
"The partnership with D.H. Stanton is one we're really proud of," Newsome said. "It provides our employees the opportunity to get involved on a daily basis."
The Braves increased their education initiative throughout the Atlanta community this year. Tom Glavine read to children at a local elementary school and Jeff Francoeur visited Parkview High School to talk to students who were sitting in some of the same classrooms that he sat in just six years earlier.
John Smoltz, who won Major League Baseball's esteemed Roberto Clemente Award in 2005, also continued to give back to the community after undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery this year. He spoke to a group of 3,000 women during a breast cancer awareness event that was staged in September.
"There are so many things we did this year that was successful," Newsome said. "Every year, we are looking to expand our outreach and help as many groups that we can."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.