Community advocates, local organizers and even the Washington Nationals are asking Ward 8 to go to bat for a neighborhood Little League next spring.
In coordination with the Nationals’ Player and Community Relations branch, the Anacostia Coordinating Council (ACC) gathered a panel of stakeholders at the Nationals Youth Baseball Academy for a half-day volunteer training seminar late last month. The session was one of the league’s first recruitment events before the official 2019 season kickoff in January.
Representatives from Little League International, former Capitol Hill Little League administrators and Nationals staff introduced a half-dozen participants to the exhaustive process of establishing a Little League, from reserving practice space to drumming up community interest.
Panelists even imparted sage advice: never forget popsicles on game day.
“We needed to help provide some best practices from people that are already doing it and people that started a league themselves,” said Shawn Bertani, Nationals executive director of Player and Community Relations. “We want to show them that there’s a support community.”
Ward 8 Little League is bouncing back from its first season this year. Finishing with a roster of only three teams, the league intends to grow support and expand resources with a newly elected Ward 8 Little League Board. Partners like the Nationals and the ACC offer organizational support and resources for the fledgling league to continue rigorous grassroots recruitment.
Kristin Furio, player representative on the board, hopes to form 16 teams across four age divisions. “That’s a shooting-for-the-moon kind of goal,” she said. “The folks who have come to our board meetings can’t wait to get the ball rolling, though we just need to grow the energy from outside of ourselves and get our other community members and maybe even local business owners to buy into that enthusiasm for our Little League as well.”
Students in Ward 8 are currently offered football, basketball and soccer. According to Board treasurer Arnold Hall, a Southeast DC native, baseball left Ward 8 and other District neighborhoods with the departure of the Washington Senators – a disappointment for Hall, who started playing the sport at nine years old and credits it as a way for players to learn important life skills.
“Baseball is a lot more than about just the nuts and bolts on the field,” he said. “Our kids need exposure. Baseball gives them that, along with critical life skills and something to focus on.”
While volunteer and player recruitment are in the beginning stages, officials remain optimistic. The Nationals estimate over 11,500 children between ages five and 14 live within the Ward 8 Little League boundary.
“There are a bunch of kids in youth football leagues or play basketball in the winter, and our intention is to use that base to recruit from first,” Furio explained.
“If we recruit early, and we get that success early, success will breed success,” said Bertani.
The Ward 8 Little League Board has already had three meetings this fall and plans to open spring 2019 registration to Ward 8 families on Dec. 1. For more information on the league and how to get involved, visit http://www.wardeightlldc.org/.