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Nonprofit hopes to bring baseball to more minority children

Nonprofit hopes to bring baseball to more minority children
January 16
10:00 2021

There has been a sharp decline in the number of African American children playing the sport of baseball. In recent years, there has been a deliberate effort by several organizations to change the trend. Touch Em All Triad (TEAT) is a new organization looking to do their part to bring baseball to more African American children.

Touch Em All Triad is a nonprofit organization that works to provide kids from low-income households the opportunity to play baseball. They have partnered with several community organizations around the Triad, including Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks Department.

“This year we will be working with upwards of 500 kids, the majority of whom are African American,” said Andy Harper, executive director of TEAT, in an email. “We would like to help make these kids more aware of the history of baseball that once existed in their communities.”

Harper is a baseball coach at High Point Central. Throughout his time as a coach, he has noticed how the price of the game has prevented kids from continuing with the sport.

“I have been a high school coach for 15 years and over that time I have seen so many kids that have been priced out of baseball,” Harper said. “I coached at Parkland for eight years and I am at High Point Central now, so the two schools that I have coached at both serve a lot of low-income communities, so I have seen how tough it is for a lot of those families to keep up with the cost of baseball.”

That issue stayed on the mind of Harper for several years until he connected with some friends and discussed how they could help remedy the problem. After many conversations, they decided to start the nonprofit.

“We felt like maybe starting a nonprofit organization and using the contacts we have in baseball, reach out to the local communities and give those kids the opportunity that everyone else has,” he said. “From what I have seen in baseball, a lot of kids have opportunities to play in local leagues like the parks and rec and little league and that’s not that expensive.  

“Right now, it’s getting to the point when they turn 11 or 12, they have to make a choice: do they continue playing travel ball or do they play another sport, and it’s usually either find another sport or don’t play anything, because playing travel ball is so expensive.”

Harper says many kids are having to make that choice around that age and has even seen the number get lower because travel baseball has become one of the hottest trends in individualized sports nowadays.

“Travel ball is kind of taking over all of the age groups, so that’s kind of the trend,” he continued. “I just saw the need over years of coaching and felt like that was a good opportunity for us to do something.”

To get the word out about their organization, Harper says their plan of attack was to meet with league directors and different recreational departments to inform them of what TEAT is all about.

“As soon as they hear what we are doing, they are all for it,” he said. “For the last year, we have affiliated with Major League Baseball through their RBI program. That has allowed us to go to these leagues and tell them we have an opportunity for them with no strings attached, it’s literally for the sake of the game and the sake of these kids.”

During the late 1990s, around 23% of MLB players were Black. In 2020 that number had dipped to around 6%.  Harper feels their organization can assist with getting that percentage back up.

Harper says the goal of TEAT is to attract minority players to the sport by enhancing their experience of the game itself.

“We want to make the game fun and exciting,” he said about their techniques. “With all kids in general, they are attracted to things that are fun, exciting and dynamic, so what we try to do with our practices is mix it up by having exciting things and bring in college, professional and former professional players to work with the kids and build relationships with them.  

Harper says he enjoys bringing in those higher level African American players to show the young kids that it is possible to make it to college or the professional level in the sport.

“A lot of kids are surprised to see someone that looks like them that played at a high level and they are able to connect with them on another level,” he went on to say. “It kind of gives them a little motivation to continue to develop and see how far they can take it.”

DeAngelo Giles is one of the college athletes that works with TEAT. He is a freshman at NC State and played at High Point Central under Harper. As an African American player, he is happy to show the young players they can reach the highest levels of the sport.

“I have known him (Harper) for a long time, and I know his heart is in the right place and the vision that he has,” said Giles. “I feel like it’s important to give back to not only the game, but to the community of people that can’t play, because baseball can be kind of expensive.”

Giles says he learned more from working with the kids than he anticipated going into it. He has seen the love for the game the young kids have for baseball and has taught him to value what he has even more. One of the best pleasures he gets out of working with the kids is seeing them apply what he has taught them on the field during practice and games.

Harper wants to collaborate with organizations throughout the Triad to bring the game to as many kids as possible.  In Winston-Salem, Harper is working with Bryce Sherman, youth and teen athletic supervisor at Recreation and Parks department. 

“He (Harper) reached out to me and told me what they were doing with their nonprofit and being that we have a baseball program that was rising until COVID, the things they were offering, like connections, networking, help with coaching and clinics, was going to be a plus for us,” said Sherman.  

“Right now, all we have is the baseball season, but after baseball season, we at Winston Recs and Parks don’t have that avenue to actually have them do things year-round with clinics and things like that. Being that he came in and said they can offer clinics throughout the year was a major plus for us, so we can send that information to kids.”

Sherman said another good thing about partnering with TEAT was the coaching aspect they bring. He says they have volunteer coaches, but many of them are not very knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the game of baseball. Sherman says he is always looking for coaches for the league.

Harper says they want to start including softball into their program as well, sometime in the near future. TEAT will also begin offering scholarships for high school seniors who are in financial need, as well as a mentoring program.

“It’s not just all about baseball, we just kind of use baseball as the tool or vehicle,” he stated. “We are trying to have an all-encompassing support system.”

For more information about Touch Em All Triad, contact Harper at 2touchemall@nullgmail.com or visit www.2touchemall.com.  If you live in Winston-Salem, you can contact Sherman at bryces@nullcityofws.org.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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