Changing the World
Angels Baseball has been serving communities since November of 2006. Con Aquilante founded the organization as a means to provide kids from low income communities with the same opportunities as those that could pay for his services.
He was asked by community leaders to work with kids from the city of Philadelphia not because of his knowledge of the game of baseball; but because of how he used the game to teach kids valuable life lessons. Today, almost every coach will preach how the game can be used to teach kids life lessons. Why? Because that is what they are supposed to say. It's what society wants to hear. It's what we expect to hear. Baseball, like any other sport can provide so many valuable life lessons. But, very few coaches actually teach what they preach. The same coach that talks about how baseball can teach kids about accountability is the same coach that will be quick to blame an umpire for a loss. The coach that talks about how baseball can teach kids about respect for one another is the same coach that can be heard yelling at his players for making a mistake. For over 13 years, Con Aquilante has held onto the values that formed the foundation of an organization that isn't interested in plastic trophies or national rankings. The Angels are an organization that wants to see kids succeed in life!
The past three months have turned the world completely upside down. The effects of COVID-19 and Racial Inequality have, and will continue to change lives forever. As an organization that is centered on sports (and Baseball specifically), it's quite clear to see the effects that both have had on our youth.
COVID-19 has forced the postponement, and in some cases, the cancellation of Spring sports leagues. States are now slowly easing back restrictions and kids are able to get back on the field. Some jurisdictions are restricting the number of kids and coaches that can be on the field. Some are allowing workouts but not games. Some are allowing for games. From what we have seen in our areas (Philadelphia and Washington DC), Rec leagues have been slow to open up, if at all. If any kids are playing, they are likely part of Travel organizations.
The divide created by Pay-for-Play is one that we have discussed many times before and will continue to be a MAJOR focus for us moving forward. And it should be a focus for EVERY youth organization. I understand why parents want their kids to be part of a Travel team; and some are great reasons. Personally, I can live without Travel ball for kids under the age of 13. But, the effects that Travel sports are having on our society are creating a huge divide. Back in 1981, Black players made up roughly 20% of MLB rosters. 17 years later, that number dwindled to roughly 8%. Why? Economics! Travel teams, the expensive costs of private instruction, and paved over baseball fields are just a few reasons why the number of black players has dwindled (Alden Woods, The Republic). We need to reverse course. If we want to take part in alleviating issues with racial inequalities, the chance to do so is right in front of us.
Kids are our best hope for reversing the course of racial inequalities. Kids are not born racist. Kids begin identifying their race between the ages of 4 and 7. We must educate kids when they are young on race and we are NOT giving ourselves a chance to do so when economics are providing a barrier to integrating kids at schools or on the field. The current state of Pay for Play puts youth sports in a situation where the socioeconomic class of a family dictates where they can play. This has to stop. We have to do a better job of integrating kids from all classes onto the same teams. If we do this, we get kids learning more about each other. We get kids learning how to respect each other. The more our youth learn at a young age, the better our society will become.
Angels Baseball is officially launching Angels Youth Development. The values we are instilling in our youth baseball players will be extended outside the diamond. We will begin working with kids from all sports. We will begin working with kids who don't play sports. We are officially dedicating ourselves to breaking down the barriers that exist between races and classes.
How will we do this? We will begin by offering programs at LITTLE or NO cost. And these programs will provide as much value as those that do require a fee. We will set up a scholarship fund for kids from low income households to help offset fees for programs that do require a higher fee. We will partner with outside organizations to help fund enrollment for kids from low income families to join their programs; BUT, only those organizations that show they are as passionate about breaking down barriers as the Angels program. We will reach out to individuals for financial help. There are so many individuals that are talking about how we have to break down barriers. We will give them the chance to show how far they will go to help the cause through financial means or through donating their time. We will put pressure on local jurisdictions for financial support. We see many making statements on social media on how things need to change; yet they continue to support existing programs. So, we will challenge them on their true intentions.
Our programs won't focus directly on racial inequalities. But, our programs will bring kids together from all classes. Our programs will have kids working together to solve problems; to learn how to win together; to learn how to support one another. The solutions that we all want start with our youth. It's imperative that we put the time, energy and finances into programs that bring them together.