The program, a flagship of the S.F. Giants Community Fund, is a non-competitive and innovative baseball program for boys and girls ages 5-18 years old at no cost to the participants. For the program in Sparks, the age range is 7-11 but the fun and education is still the same.
“The kids seem to have a great time out there,” said Cindy Brantner, recreation specialist for the City of Sparks Parks and Recreation department. “They just like the smaller groups and just being out there playing baseball, even though the regular baseball season is over as far as Little League goes. This gives them another chance to be out there. The families appreciate it too because it’s a free program.”
The fact that the less fortunate kids are able to learn the game of baseball at no charge is the key component of the program.
“It’s really important because some of the kids that can’t afford to go to other summer programs, they don’t get to do a whole lot in the summer,” Brantner said. “So it’s kind of nice to give those kids a program that they can look forward to in the afternoons or evenings that they can participate in.
“And then the parents obviously like it because it’s free. It’s just really important to get them out. Even though they can’t afford other things, at least we can give them a free sport that they can be a part of and exercise and not have to sit at home by themselves.”
Dana Melani, Junior Giants coordinator of Sparks league, shared the same sentiments as Brantner.
“We want to give youth who do not have the ability to afford to participate in a program during the summer time a chance to get off the streets and do something productive and learn character development,” Melani said. “They get to participate in a program that teaches them educational and health skills along with how to play baseball.”
The fact that the kids learn more than just the basics of the diamond is part of why the program is so popular.
“The feedback is very positive, Melani said. “There is a large amount of kids that would not be playing sports at all participating in our program. It targets under-privileged youth, so it’s free. People appreciate that it is free. And quickly they learn after enrolling their kid that it’s so much more than just baseball. They’re learning throughout the summer and become more well-rounded.
“I think the biggest impact is probably is just instilling confidence and self-esteem. The kids are a part of something and realize that someone believes in them and cares about them and wants them to be a part of their team.”