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  • Writer's pictureBGC Metro Baltimore

How Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation's 'Badges for Baseball' Turned A Fun Camp Into A Winning Experience

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

BGCMB Members gained the mentorship of dedicated law enforcement officers, had fun on the baseball field and made new friends in some of Maryland’s greatest outdoors.

Members, selected from various Club locations who had fun learning some of the right moves on the bases and in life, stand with next to BGCMB Youth Development Coordinator from Leonard's Lane, Jane'e Bass, and Club On The Go Youth Development Coordinators Jazmine Dodson and Mantriel Reaves.

The Major League Baseball season may be coming to an exciting conclusion for Baltimore Orioles fans, but the game was just heating up for our thirteen deserving Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore (BGCMB) members (ages 10-14) who were invited to attend the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation’s (CRSF) Ripken Summer Camp in Aberdeen. This four-day camp that combined baseball, softball and other summer outdoor activities proved to be a fun time for our members and an educational one, too. Jazmine Dodson, a Youth Development Coordinator for BGCMB’s Club On The Go, explains all the fun she witnessed members having as they learned the fundamentals.

BGCMB Members at Ripken Summer Camp were able to step on the field and get the Big League feel by playing on diamond of Cal Sr. Yard at The Ripken Experience in Aberdeen.

“This was such an amazing experience seeing our members play and grow. I loved seeing everyone get out of their comfort zone,” Jazmine says about our members connecting with other campers and—for some—learning a new game away from home. “A lot of the children have never even touched a bat before. It was great seeing their growth and seeing them work together as a team to better themselves. I really loved seeing the girls keep up with the boys even though some of them never even played sports before.” She then outlines the magnitude of the gems being passed between innings as the game played out on the diamond. “Some of the lessons our members learned about baseball and softball is that failure is a part of the game and life. So, when you fail, don’t give up. Keep pushing through because it’s not about failing–that will happen–it's about how you deal with it.” In life, some of the best education sometimes happens outside of the classroom. Learning how to step back into the batter’s box after a third strike or raising your hand in class again after saying the incorrect answer takes courage and confidence in one’s strengthened abilities to try again. This is a lesson reinforced daily to our BGCMB members: that readiness—even in defeat—is the first step to success.

The signature ping of an aluminum bat or the pop of a ball zooming into a glove were far from the only auditory wonders heard at this camp surrounded by nature of Harford County only miles from the Chesapeake Bay. A few BGCMB Youth Development Coordinators were there to help our members adjust to their new surroundings–and right into the swing of things. Members gained the basics of the skills during the mornings and early afternoons. There was also time to enjoy recreational fun through swimming and playing other sports with new friends from counties across Maryland creating moments undoubtedly worth cherishing.

Camp also included elements of the CRSF program, Badges for Baseball, which all BGCMB members participate in during the school year. Carrie LeBow, Chief Operating Officer for CRSF, explains in greater detail how the Badges program is enriching the lives of youth and giving them a better understanding of how they can each become active leaders for positivity in the confines of their own neighborhoods.

An All Around Game: Mentors and campers laughing with and learning from each other.

“Badges for Baseball is a year-round, weekly sports-themed program that allows trained mentors to teach critical life skills such as teamwork, anti-bullying, communication, respect and resilience,” Carrie LeBow says about the program that combines a discussion-based, character education curriculum along with weekly interactions between youth and law enforcement officer volunteers. “The positive, healthy relationship between police in urban and rural communities and at-risk young people is the beginning of real change in distressed neighborhoods across the country. This serves as an early intervention opportunity to shape the personal trajectory and perceptions of youth faced with challenging obstacles to success in life.”

The law enforcement agencies represented at camp included the Anne Arundel Police Department, Maryland State Police, Maryland Transportation Authority, Baltimore County Police Department, Homeland Security, U.S. Postal Inspection, Prince George’s County Police Department, Baltimore Police Department, Baltimore City Sheriff’s Office, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Harford County Sheriff’s Office, all broadening the scope of what’s possible for a career after high school graduation. Speakers included Johnny Hughes of the U.S. Marshals and Maryland’s Lieutenant Governor Elect Aruna Miller and other leaders. Each lent their knowledge to youth while they enjoyed refreshing scoops of Rita’s Italian Ice. Cool treats and all, this level of engagement between youth and officers is a resource and chips away at an often generations-wide division between youth and law enforcement.

Speakers made an impact beyond the game with

Ripken Summer Camp attendees and BGCMB members.

“By volunteering with [Badges for Baseball], the officers show their commitment to the neighborhoods they serve and [it] allows them to actually get down on the ground level–even on the dirt of the playing field,” Baltimore Police Department Sgt. Russ Robar says about the opportunity officers must spend quality, non-emergency time with residents. “It removes a lot of natural barriers that can occur when officers are just interacting on the street with the community.”

Jazmine Dodson agrees with the positive effects of this unique form of direct outreach.

“Badges for Baseball is impactful for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore because a lot of the children look at law enforcement in a negative way. This gives the children the chance to build positive relationships with law enforcement and see that all police are not bad.”

Sgt. Robar also sees how Badges for Baseball directly addresses that narrative by connecting with youth over games.

“The baseball field seems to break down a lot of the barriers and allows the community to see the officers as one of them. With the officers being on the ball field, they are serving as mentors, however they have the game to help with the progression of the relationship with the kids.”

Teamwork Is The Goal: Campers embrace after playing a great game together on the diamond.

Everyone here at Boys & Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Baltimore was thankful to see that our partnership with Badges for Baseball seamlessly blended into the CRSF’s Ripken Summer Camp schedule. Our select group of Club members from a mix of all locations benefitted from this extensive summertime version of the program they normally take part during the school year. This connection between officers and our members has become more like mentor to mentee since we introduced this dialogue-building initiative into our programming. The insightful tips our participating members gained at the camp are the same ones we offer every member each day through the meaningful interactions our Youth Development Coordinators—like Jazmine—have with members to produce the best outcomes by instilling the value of preparing for tomorrow with the lessons of today.

Want to see how you can help give more rewarding opportunities to our members as they walk to their Great Future? Click here to learn more about how to donate to this wonderful mission.

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