The clouds lifted in time for the Southeast Schools Baseball League’s opening day last Thursday at Patterson Park.
The league, which was launched by First District Councilman Jim Kraft, is in its third year.
“I grew up playing ball in the city,” said Kraft, gesturing toward the green expanse of Patterson Park. “Well, I grew up in Waverly, but I was in travelling leagues and played here as a boy.
The Southeast Schools League has eight teams this year, up from six its first year. Twenty fourth- and fifth-graders are allowed per team. Practices are at the discretion of the coaches; games are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4 p.m.
“At the end, we’ll have on winner,” said league commissioner Joe Furst. “It’s not ‘trophies for everyone.’ Play to have fun, but play to win.”
Local students were excited about playing in the league.
“I play a lot of sports,” said Tyshawn Richardson of Wolfe Street Academy. “I figured I’d play baseball with my friends and enjoy the game.”
Some signed up for other reasons.
“My mom made me play baseball so I can learn how to play more and be more active,” said Brian Medrano, also of Wolfe Street Academy.
Kraft said that the community had come through with donations of equipment and funds. The most difficult part of getting the league up and running, he said, was finding coaches.
Anthony Davis, coach of Highlandtown Middle/Elementary School 237, said that he is coaching “just to give back.”
“I’ve been playing baseball since I was 6; I still play today,” he said. “The state of little league today isn’t what it used to be. Just giving these kids the opportunity to do what I did back then is a plus for me and a plus for them.”
Uniforms—baseball caps and shirts printed with team names—were donated by the Baltimore Sports and Social Club. The BSSC also donated uniforms last year.
“They’ve been big supporters of the league,” said Kraft.
Mike Cray, owner of the BSSC, threw out the first pitch.
Other major supporters have been the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and local Freemasons, as well as the Exchange Club of Highlandtown/Canton, as well as a number of local community associations.
“We’ve had people come by our office and drop off a bag of gloves, or a box of baseballs,” Kraft said. “People have come come to community association meetings with four bats; people have been great.”
The Baltimore City Foundation held the donations in an official capacity; Kraft’s office billed them for purchases of bats, balls, gloves, bases and transportation.
Children in the league may keep their gloves at the end of the season, and the league has no registration fee.
“If a kid is a student at one of the schools and in the age group, then they can play,” said Kraft.
by Erik Zygmont