Jason Newman is the Program Director at the Bridesburg Unit of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Philadelphia.
When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be Lou Gehrig. So, during the 1995 baseball season, during the debate about who was more impressive, Lou Gehrig or Cal Ripken, Jr., I was firmly in Lou Gehrig’s camp. After spending a week at the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation’s Badges for Baseball Camp, I’m able to look back and see that there really was no wrong camp to be in 18 years ago.
Here are some highlights:
· On Monday, August 19, 2013, we set off to Aberdeen, MD. For all four of the children, this would be the longest time they’d spent away from family. The drive down was a display of 10 and 11 year old boys trying to hide their nervousness through joking and silliness (the number of fart jokes kids can come up with in 90 minutes is absolutely amazing).
· After a bit of getting comfortable with our small bunk beds and one another it was off to roll call where we would meet our new teams. None of the children had met one another before that moment but the camaraderie was immediate.
· Coach Travis explaining the Iron Man record to the kids as “2,632 days of work without a day off—that’s the number of days of school from your first day of kindergarten to your last day of high school.” I don’t know if that’s completely accurate, but it is impressive (assuming an average of 180 school days/year, it comes to 14.6 years).
· Wake up calls at 6:30, bleary eyes dressing in uniforms, gray shirts tucked in, hats on straight and forward, we made our way to line up with our teams for breakfast.
· The dropped jaws of the children when we came to Cal, Sr.’s Yard (the replica of Camden Yards) were amazing.
· Being introduced to our teachers for the week: a mix of former college baseball and softball players and law enforcement agents from around the country
· When Kendrea, one of the girls on our team who had never played baseball before was struggling at the plate, all 9 of her teammates, 3 of her coaches and even a couple of members of the other team cheered her on until she popped out to second.
· Tuesday night we went to see an Ironbirds game. We got to the field and entered through the player’s area to go to our seats. We got to see the pitching debut of Orioles first round pick Hunter Harvey. He pitched a gem, regularly hitting 95 mph.
· Wednesday was a day of teamwork drills as we went on the ropes course, engaged in bridge building, attention drills and team walking before heading out to the pool to cool off before dinner.
· After dinner we were given a presentation about Rachel’s Challenge. It was a discussion about a young lady who was the first to die at Columbine High School. Before the shooting, Rachel had written a paper for a class challenging herself and her peers to find one good deed to do a day in the hopes of changing the world. At the start of the talk, the kids were being kids, fidgety, tired; but by the end, there was not one dry eye in the gym. Back at the cabin, the kids talked with the adults in the room about Columbine and little things they could do to make life better.
· Thursday was a special day. We started off with drills but after lunch we were given a presentation by the Maryland State K-9 Unit and a helicopter fly by.