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MLB, EverFi team up to keep students on track

MLB.com

NEW YORK -- Joe Torre looked out at 200 fourth- and fifth-graders at the DREAM Charter School in Harlem on Wednesday and told them a story about how he expected the Yankee players to spend their offseasons during the team's dynasty when he was manager.

"We had this one thing that we always told the players: 'If you don't use it, you lose it,'" said the Hall of Famer and Major League Baseball's chief baseball officer. "They were sharp when the season ended, and the thing about playing baseball, and really about life, is that you want to learn something every day.

NEW YORK -- Joe Torre looked out at 200 fourth- and fifth-graders at the DREAM Charter School in Harlem on Wednesday and told them a story about how he expected the Yankee players to spend their offseasons during the team's dynasty when he was manager.

"We had this one thing that we always told the players: 'If you don't use it, you lose it,'" said the Hall of Famer and Major League Baseball's chief baseball officer. "They were sharp when the season ended, and the thing about playing baseball, and really about life, is that you want to learn something every day.

"When our players go home in the offseason, they need to work. They can't take the other members of their team home with them, because baseball is a team sport. What you guys do is a team sport. It's working together. We tell the players to make sure they stay sharp. They can still practice. They can still run. They can still keep their bodies in shape."

The analogy was appropriate on this day, because these students are going to be doing something similar in their coming "offseason" thanks to a new national digital education initiative Summer Slugger. MLB officials were on hand to announce it is working with EverFi, a digital learning innovator, to create the free, baseball-themed educational course aimed at preventing students from losing critical math and literacy skills during the summer months.

As part of the new relationship, EverFi becomes an official education partner of MLB, with 14 MLB clubs joining the initial promotion of the initiative. Targeting fourth- and fifth-graders nationwide, the first-of-its kind digital platform hopes to prevent "summer slide." Parents across the country can access the Summer Slugger program by visiting Summer Slugger.

"We are pleased to announce this digital education platform with our new partners at EverFi," said Commissioner Rob Manfred, who will be joining the DREAM school's board of directors. "Summer Slugger will help address a critical academic issue among young people around the country while also providing a fun, interactive baseball experience for children on their favorite tech devices. The summer months are synonymous with our game, and this is a great opportunity to have a positive impact on students through this program."

In addition to Torre, other dignitaries at the launch event included Tom Brasuell, MLB vice president of community affairs; Tom Davidson, CEO of EverFi; Brian Smith, the Yankees' senior vice president of corporate/community relations; Rich Berlin, DREAM executive director; Eve Colavito, DREAM Chief of Schools; and Harold Reynolds and Fran Charles of MLB Network.

Smith surprised all of the students in the gym by inviting them to be the team's guests at Yankee Stadium this season.

Summer Slugger is broken down into 36 total interactive games (10 minutes per game) that include these educational topics: units of measure, place value, arithmetic, geometry, spelling, phonemic awareness, vocabulary and comprehension.

Summer Slugger is an online course that unlocks activities and offers rewards for progress and consistency. Students engage with content that reinforces key foundational and procedural skills while enjoying the freedom and motivation of a digital baseball activity.

Studies show students lose critical math and literacy skills each summer, thus widening the achievement gap, and requiring substantial remediation at the start of each school year. Seventy-five percent of U.S. students do not currently participate in summer learning programs.

The dignitaries were given a Summer Slugger demo as students used the program on laptops.

"It's an exciting day here at DREAM," Berlin said, noting that MLB has been "the wind in our sails for 26 years now.

"We're an extended-day, extended-year school, and we understand the loss of summer reading and the learning gap. You've got great EverFi tools, and a great team and a great corporate partner in MLB, and that's what we call a home run. It's a big deal. We're particularly interested, we're data-driven here, so anything that accelerates learning and student interest is a big plus."

Davidson, CEO of EverFi, said this is an attempt "to tie learning with the summer months and baseball in a way no one has before. We think it's smart and effective, and really shows a deep commitment by the clubs and the league, and the students themselves to learn."

He said teachers spend an average of six weeks each fall re-teaching their students old material that was lost during the summer.

"I really can't emphasize enough how important it is that we succeed in combating this issue of summer slide," Davidson said. "This is an issue that affects students in impoverished level at a disproportionate level. We talk to tens of thousands of teachers across the country, and they all come back to this idea, that if this issue compounds itself, summer over summer, you never really have a chance to get these students back. The problems compound, the gaps compound. We have to win this.

"Today's event in teaming with Major League Baseball to do this is important."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him @Marathoner and read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com/blogs hub.

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