Organized sports offers opportunity for underprivileged youth

By: Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Learning valuable life lessons from sports, that's what one government agency is hoping Richmond's underprivileged kids will be able to do by taking part in a city baseball league.

Every Saturday morning the baseball diamonds at this park are flooded with children.

Starting this season, many of those kids come from some of Richmond's poorest neighborhoods and playing ball is something they never thought they'd have the opportunity to do.

"I never got to play a real sport on a real team," said 10-year-old Majia Singleton.

Singleton is growing up in Midlothian Village.

Her mom says her children witness things that would scare most adults.

They're not always the sights and sounds of a typical childhood.

"There are a lot of fights that they do see, that they are witness to, gunshots, things like that," said mother of two Krystal Blount. "Most of them haven't seen anyone get shot but they are out there playing and they do hear the gunshots."

But Saturday's opening day is about change -- showing these kids, there could be a better life ahead.

That starts with a partnership that allows them to play in the Metropolitan Junior League for free.

Through HUD's neighborhood networks program, they're given uniforms and taught lessons that go beyond the diamond.

"Everything is not about the fighting and the violence," Blount said. "You can be together and have a good time without all of the confusion and things like that."

After growing up in the projects of Beaumont, Texas, coordinator Jerryl Bennet knows firsthand how sports can lead to a way out.

"When I got involved in organized baseball, got my own glove, got the uniform, it really inspired confidence in me and it helped me open my eyes to a broader world," she said.

With their first game behind them, Blount is already seeing results in the lessons her daughter explains in the words of an innocent child.

"Staying calm with other players," said Singleton. "If something goes wrong, you don't be mean to somebody."

Neighborhood Networks is trying to expand the program to other housing developments.

Right now Essex Village is also considering forming a team.

If you want to get involved, you can find more information here.

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