On Saturday in the nation's capital, mostly human volunteers -- and Screech, the Washington Nationals' mascot -- converged to put together something special.
From the safety of their cars, adhering to Covid-19 prevention protocols, children in the local community were handed bat-and-ball sets that will springboard baseball and softball activity throughout the 2021 season.
"The children attending were excited to receive the event giveaways, and the parents were pleased to see an event of this sort for children. Screech was an additional treat for all," said event organizer Dr. Joseph D. Turner, who helped spearhead the event alongside fellow minister Maurice Mack-Murrow and Tyra Mack-Murrow.
In an ongoing effort to further build tangible connections between baseball and the Black community, Major League Baseball partnered with the Nationals to host a special drive-thru Play Ball event at Matthews Memorial Baptist Church. The socially distanced occasion was part of a community event series that MLB is hosting with Black Churches throughout the country, providing families and children with bat and ball sets that they can safely enjoy at home and various parts of their neighborhoods, such as parks and playgrounds.
Previous events have been held in Charleston, S.C., Columbia, Miss., Camden, Ark., Oklahoma City, Okla., Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., Queens and Somerset, N.J. Masks and social distancing guidelines have been strictly enforced throughout the events.
"The Drive-Thru events have been tremendously impactful last year and so far this year. [MLB's chief baseball development officer] Tony Reagins charged us to be “intentional” in our outreach to the African-American churches. What we found were organizations that are family focused, familiar with, and committed to volunteerism, and outreach," said David James, MLB's VP of Baseball and Softball Development.
"All of those traits are important as we look to grow support for “community based” leagues, which is the basis of what we focus on with the RBI [Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities] program. In this past weekend’s event and others, we consistently have people tell us that they are baseball and softball fans and they would like to see more kids in their communities have the opportunity to play!"
Events such as Saturday's do more than supply resources to kids seeking to play ball. They create memories and foster meaningful bonds in the community, according to Dr. Turner.
"We believe that events such as baseball help foster a sense of community. We are very positive and hopeful about the partnership between Matthews Memorial Baptist Church, Major League Baseball and the Washington Nationals for the betterment of urban communities," Foster said.