JACKSON, Mich. — It has been 11 years since the King Center in Jackson hosted baseball games. That changed Monday with the first baseball and softball camp of the year.
Jackson High School baseball coach Chris Hoover said it's vital for the community.
“There’s a desperate need to just get more kids playing baseball,” Hoover said. “We’ve seen the sport shrink in our area and we need to grow it. I think reaching out to youth and getting bats on hands and gloves on hands, just getting people acquainted with it is part of the solution. The more kids we can expose to baseball the better.”
For King Center Director Antonio Parker, it was his mission to bring those fields that he once played on years ago back to life.
“It’s extremely vital. I look at sports as an avenue as kids driving a car for opportunity. Some kids may be talented in basketball, baseball whatever it is get in that car, drive that car and take advantage of that opportunity and let it take you where it’s going to take you in life,” Parker said.
Parker says he and Hoover want to get as many kids as possible to come to these camps and bring vibrancy to the once dormant fields.
“Just looking forward to what baseball can bring back to this community and just bring people out and enjoy this beautiful field here. It needs to be used. It’s laid dormant too long. That was one of my goals as King Center director was to help bring baseball back,” he said.
Hoover believes the city had to adapt with the times so children could have an outlet for activities.
“Kids like me who would run around our neighborhoods and see where everybody’s bikes are at and meet up in somebody’s backyards are at seems to be not as popular and going by the wayside," he said. "We have to have structured organization. We have to have a facility and adult leadership it seems like to get kids playing now. It’s not as organic as it used to be and this is one of the ways we’re going to make this happen."
Parker estimates 40 to 50 boys and girls took advantage of the camp’s first day.
“If a kid comes today and tomorrow, ‘Hey, I want to bring three of my buddies tomorrow,’ then great. Let them come in. All we got to do is record a name. We can figure out any kind of fees or whatever. We can figure that out later,” Hoover said.
The cost is $15 if you go to Jackson Public Schools or live in the district. It is $25 if you live outside of the district.
The camp wraps up Wednesday. Both Tuesday and Wednesday the camp will run from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
“This is just the beginning. This is just the birthing stages of what it’s going to be. Hopefully this time next year it will turn into a full league and we have more and more kids out here,” Parker said.
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