Providing instruction on playing baseball while also emphasizing the importance of education is the pitch of the Jackie Robinson League. This entity created in 1993 is apart of The Philadelphia Youth Organization that was established to provide organized sports for children living in South Philadelphia. The home field of the Robinson League is the Marian Anderson Recreation Center, located at 17th and Fitzwater streets.
Robinson and Anderson are both legendary figures making historic achievements in the 20th Century. Robinson was the first black to play for a Major League team in the 20th Century while Anderson gained international renown as a concert singer. Anderson grew-up and lived in the area around that rec center that bears her name. The area was once a predominantly lower to middle class neighborhood but the demographics have since changed with a real estate boom in the area.
“The demographics of our league have not changed,” said Recreation Leader and coach, Steve Bandura. “We are still recruiting in the schools in South Philadelphia and drawing in those kids that normally wouldn’t have an opportunity to play if not for this league,” Bandura said.
The Robinson League uses baseball to teach the importance of education while instilling life skills in the children. “The league teaches skills like discipline and teamwork,” said Keith Hendricks, a partner of a league member. In addition to the Jackie Robinson League, the Philadelphia Youth Organization has a travel team called the Anderson Monarchs. The Monarchs are a progression of the Jackie Robinson league and pulls from kids all over Philadelphia.
“The Jackie Robinson league is mostly for kids right here in the neighborhood. People come from all over to play for the Monarchs because the coaching is so good,” Hendricks said.
The program has generated a lot of success over the years and has recently been named the next Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy. A $3 million project is in the working stages to create a new facility at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park in South Philadelphia near I-95. The new facility will have a 90-foot field, batting cages and new offices. At Marian Anderson Recreation Center, they are working to build a new gymnasium, artificial turf and a facility for winter training. The Recreation Center also will be adding new computer labs that will provide further emphasis on education for the children.
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