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Youth baseball at Lasky Field

Players on the sideline at Lasky Field  PHOTOS COURTESY HEALTHY KIDZ, INC.

Players on the sideline at Lasky Field

Healthy Kidz summer ball attracting more local kids

By Harry M. Anderson, Jr.
Special to the Michigan Citizen

The re-establishment of the game of baseball for the city’s youth continues this summer through the joint efforts of the Detroit Parks and Recreation Department and Healthy Kidz, Inc. Various levels of baseball are being played at Lasky Field on Detroit’s northeast side.

The league has 400 youth playing on 23 teams in T-ball, Coaches Pitch, 12 and under, and 14 under. Games are played at five of the field’s seven ball diamonds that are immaculately maintained by both the recreation department and Healthy Kidz, Inc.

The regular season started on the week of July 4 and will continue through Aug. 23 with the playoffs starting in September. The young participants come from all over the city to play on Wednesday and Friday nights from 6 p.m. until dark.

T-ball is the beginner’s level for boys and girls between the ages of five and six. Katherine Braggs, one the Parks and Recreation directors, explains that many of the players are just now learning the concept of the game.

“They’re being taught the fundamentals of swinging, base running, catching and fielding the ball,” Braggs said. “Some of kids feel confused at first at times, but they’re under the guidance of their parents, grandparents, other guardians.”

“Braggs says most of the youth can hit the ball, and they understand the concept of the game. But what they don’t do, the adults help out by showing them.

“Once they learn some of the concepts, everything else kicks in,” says Braggs. “Sure, the field of play is a comedy of errors, but they didn’t have a slight concept of the game until now. You have to remember, they’re just little kids.”

According to Braggs, these children are playing because their family members remember Willie Horton, the 1968 Tigers, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Kirk Gibson and the 1984 Tigers, the story of Jackie Robinson and Cecil Fielder, the father of Prince Fielder.

“They’re passing these memories and stories onto their kids,” she says. She adds that baseball experienced a drop in interest, but it is now growing.

The next level of play is the Coaches Pitch level for boys and girls from seven to nine. The coaches pitch to the kids or use a pitching machine to hurl the ball at the plate for the kids to hit.

“This level helps kids to learn the strike zone and balls,” said Coach Andy Bryant, who played baseball at Southeastern High and Alabama State. “This type of ball helps the kids with their hitting, the timing of their swing.

“It (baseball) is very different to the kids because they weren’t getting enough practice. However they’re making progresses as much as they can. We started three weeks ago, and I see the progress.”

Other levels played are the 14 and under and 12 and under. Through these programs, Lisa Bryant, the director and commissioner, hopes to help youth not only play in high school but to go beyond to the collegiate level.

“We’re starting to help kids to play at the high school level,” Bryant said. “When they try to play at that level, they’ll get discouraged if they don’t catch on. These teams will help them develop their skills.

“We want them to go to college, and getting a baseball scholarship will help them achieve to get an education.”

The ball fields are maintained by the Recreation Department and Healthy Kidz through the Recreation Department and the State Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

There are 50 youth employees that work for the DNR through Healthy Kidz, according to Maria Adams-Lawton, executive director of Healthy Kidz. She says the youth workers cut the grass, weed out the fields, drag the dirt in the infield to smooth it out and pick up any litter on or around the field.

“I’m giving whatever I can to help this program grow,” Adams-Lawton said.

Both Bryant and Adams-Lawton say they hope this program helps to re-establish baseball in Detroit.


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