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Badges for Baseball Sarasota

Badges for Baseball is a core program of the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation, (CRSF). It began in 2009 and has served over 100,000 youth in twenty different states and twenty seven different communities. Created by the CRSF it partners with local law enforcement agencies and trains police volunteers to use Foundation programs like Quickball and Healthy Choices Healthy Children as a vehicle to positively influence their relationship with youth and visa-versa.

The Sarasota Police Department began its program in the spring of 2014. Once a week six volunteer officers come to the Roy McBean Boys and Girls Club. What they do there will vary but a common theme is to engage the kids via new activities or simply discussion. An example of the former was a bocci ball program introduced by 25 year law enforcement veteran Sgt. Eric Bolden pictured below (R) with McBean Club Director Nate Brown. You can imagine the initial laughing skeptical reaction of the kids when Sgt. Bolden told them of the next week’s planned activity- and, yes, you can predict the rest of the story. The kids loved it.

Sarasota Police Officer Dominic Harris (right photo). Officer Harris is a Badges for Baseball volunteer pictured here at the June 2019 Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation summer camp. He was a chaperone for the eight Boys and Girls Club members selected to attend.

This is a light anecdote.  What is not is three things we’ve learned first hand: First, the excitement the kids display as the officers walk into their club on Wednesdays. Second, the way the police officers are now greeted when they are outside the club patrolling in the Newtown community. Third, the two way learning that has been taking place. “We’re all pretty experienced but some of the things the kids tell us about their lives and what they know astounded us” one of the officers told me. The kids will say, “I really like Officer _______ and I want to go into law enforcement.”

For me, one of the most encouraging things was listening to the very first discussion session between the female teen club members and and the Badges for Baseball Police Officer volunteers- four male and one female police officer that day. Much to my own and the Officers’ surprise the conversation back and forth was non-stop and substantive. I was particularly moved by how attentive these young women where when these successful male role models spoke about  the standards and criteria they’d want their own daughters to use in selecting male friends AND WHY. Will be interesting to follow-up in a month and get direct reactions from the officers themselves and the participating teen age girls.