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Friday, May 24, 2024

Tough love pays off

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“I see a home run coming,” said Timothy Kimbrough, manager of the Phillies, one of several Frederick Douglass Little League teams, during a recent game against the Braves of the Eagledale Little League. “Let’s get baseball ready.”

Some believe it’s that encouragement and tough love that has gotten the Phillies an 11 and 1 record this season.

Before becoming a stellar baseball team, these 11 and 12-year-olds had to start from the bottom and climb their way to the top. At the beginning of the season, players entered into a “draft” and tried out for the league. Once the team roster was selected, Kimbrough and Phillies coach, Berry Winston worked to develop a rapport with the boys. Then it was on to hours of practice at Oscar Charleston Park, their home field.

“We started with the fundamentals,” said Winston. “Some of the boys hadn’t even played before so we had to teach them the game.”

Phillies players grasped the concepts and began winning games. Kimbrough and Winston are excited about the wins, but believe respect for the game and their opponent, team work, technique and discipline are more important.

“You have to motivate them, but not let them get cocky,” said Winston.

Kimbrough is also proud of the Phillies record, but more importantly believes Douglass Little League is an opportunity to keep kids off the streets.

“If it turns into something else or carries on into high school or college, that’s great, but our main goal is to help the kids and give them something positive to do,” said Kimbrough. “We’re like their father. Lots of kids on the team don’t have a father. We’re teaching more than just baseball – we’re teaching life skills.”

Both Kimbrough and Winston played little league as kids, and recall a time when there were various little leagues around the city with ample teams and ample players. Today, the flash and grandeur of other sports such as football and basketball has somewhat outshined baseball, but the positive effects of baseball and team sports have always remained – Blacks just need to take more advantage of them.

“Growing up, we used to shovel off a tennis court and take the nets down to play baseball. That’s how much we loved it,” said Kimbrough. “Today, it’s hard to get our kids interested in baseball. We don’t have much support and have very few sponsors, but we still do it because we love our neighborhood and our kids.”

In addition to their hard work and great record, the Phillies has been invited to this year’s Urban Initiative in Chicago, a program sponsored by the national Little League organization. The program provides assistance for youth of underprivileged leagues.

This summer is full of excitement, especially for Phillies pitcher, Devante Nickson. He was chosen to attend the 2012 Little League World Series in August in Williamsport, Pa.

“I was chosen because at first I wasn’t very good, but I got better as a baseball player. And I wrote an essay on Oscar Charleston. They liked it,” said the 12-year-old. “I’m happy I get to go to the World Series.”

Last year, the Phillies won two games so this year’s almost perfect record is exciting and special. The team is grateful for the support they’ve received thus far and encourages the community to continue to support Black youth playing a good, wholesome game of baseball.

For more information, call Cecil Sinkfield at (317) 591-5050.

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