Now Open: Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy
When the Washington Nationals returned to DC in 2005, they promised to bring with them the gift of baseball for inner city youth in the hopes of improving their young lives and budding futures. Now nearly a decade after the initial agreement between the District and the Major League Baseball franchise, the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy is finally open for business.
It has been a long process, but nine years and $18 million later, the academy has recently welcomed its first class of 4th graders into its inaugural after school program. Mentors at the center oversee a range of activities for the kids, ranging from batting practice to help with homework and schoolwork.
The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, the MLB team’s associated charitable organization, is hopeful that the academy will help bring baseball back to the lives of inner city kids, particularly in the black community.
“The culture of inner city baseball,” said Marla Lerner Tanenbaum, chair of the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation, “especially in African American communities, needs a jolt.”
The mission of the academy is to merge baseball and education both on the field and in the classroom. To this end, the facility is equipped with two expansive fitness areas complete with turf flooring and indoor batting cages, as well as a separate area of classrooms and learning centers.
The goals of the academy are bigger than baseball. Executive director Tal Alter said of the program, “we’re not trying to create baseball players, but we are trying to use the values of baseball to create a positive culture.”
The Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy seems to be having a positive effect on the young lives it has touched so far, and it has only just begun to realize the organization’s plans for the future. In time, the academy will broaden its reach to include kids of all ages in after school programs as well as full time summer sessions.
With their efforts to impact the youth of DC, the Washington Nationals have truly embodied the spirit of baseball.