By Kathy Chouteau
The Giants Community Fund, a nonprofit that uplifts under-resourced youth through baseball and softball to promote health, education and character development, has added a new offering to its playbook with the launch of its 2021 Junior Giants Schools Program.
Rolling out this fall, the program is a free, after-school physical education initiative providing Richmond children with access to youth baseball and softball opportunities, per the fund. The fund said it has created a new branch of its existing Junior Giants Program to connect with kids while at school, increasing their access to the sports.
Sue Petersen, executive director of the fund, said that the organization was spurred by the pandemic “to reimagine how we could make Junior Giants more inclusive and equitable, while remaining safe and healthy.” She added that support from the MLB-MLBPA’s Youth Development Foundation bolstered the Fund’s ability to fulfill its mission of propelling “youth in underserved regions to be positive forces in their communities” through baseball and softball.
In creating the program, the fund said it was focused on addressing racial achievement gaps and socioeconomic disadvantages by offering six-week practice plans, teacher training and AmeriCorps Ambassador support.
As part of Junior Giants Schools’ non-competitive six-week training program, boys and girls ages 5-11 are taught through physical education curriculum or after-school programs in their communities, per the Fund. Weeks one and two teach kids throwing and catching; weeks three and four focus on fielding; and weeks five and six will coach participants on batting, with “teamwork, confidence and respect” incorporated into the curriculum along the way.
“With the pandemic limiting in-person schooling and play, we felt it was critical to focus on reaching more youth with comprehensive programming, on and off the field, and this expansion of the Junior Giants program at public schools is an important component of that mission,” said Jean Lee Batrus, Executive Director, MLB-MLBPA Youth Development Foundation. “We expect our investment will serve over 10,000 youth in the next several years while also supporting their schools in underserved communities. We are proud to support the Junior Giants program as it goes beyond learning how to play baseball and softball through a youth development model of education that ensures that fun remains in learning.”