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 > Little League Online > Media > Little League News Archive > 2008 > Atlanta Metro YMCAs Provide Opportunity, Experiences to Urban Children through Affiliation with Little League

Atlanta Metro YMCAs Provide Opportunity, Experiences to Urban Children through Affiliation with Little League

Atlanta Metro YMCAs Provide Opportunity, Experiences to Urban Children through Affiliation with Little League

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A perfect 3-0 record in the Little League Baseball World Series Championship Game, and home state to winners of two of the last three World Series titles, Georgia has experienced a groundswell of Little League enthusiasm, which the Atlanta Metro YMCAs have parlayed into the foundation for a diverse youth sports program.

“Our goal is to create an excitement about baseball among minority children in urban areas throughout Atlanta,” Rc Pruitt, Group Vice President of the Metro Atlanta YMCA, said. “Little League wanted to establish a point of entry in Atlanta, and in looking at Little League, its brand and philosophy, it fit with what our YMCAs are doing. We feel there is stability and connection to communities that mirrors the YMCA’s mission.”

Working with the League Development Department at Little League International, and the Little League Urban Initiative, seven branches of the YMCA of Metropolitan Atlanta and three with the Butler Street YMCA, are coordinating three chartered leagues with baseball and softball divisions for children ages 7 to14. The YMCAs offering Little League programs are: The Villages at Carver, Bill Lucas, J.D. Winston, Westside Whitehead, Centennial Place, South DeKalb, East Lake, Decatur, Andrew and Walter Young, and Summit.

“There is a lot of synergy around the recent Little League World Series champions from Georgia,” Mr. Pruitt said “The goal for our first Little League season was to have 500 children participating. We ended up chartering six teams and servicing more than 450 kids through our affiliation with Little League.”

The Atlanta Braves Baseball Academy at The Villages at Carver Family YMCA is a joint partnership between the Metro Atlanta and Butler Street YMCAs, and the Atlanta Braves. The facility was the central location for games, while the different YMCAs formed their own teams and hosted their own practices.

“For our program to be successful the Braves and Little League are key,” Mr. Pruitt said. “They’re our anchor partners and pivotal to the long-range outlook of the academy.

“Little League provides the program and structure,” Mr. Pruitt said, “while the Braves, through significant financial and commercial contributions to the Academy, are committed to providing long-term support and services to children in communities across metro Atlanta.”

The Braves, through the Baseball Academy, have provided technical support and resources to the YMCA in the form of clinic instruction for Little League players and volunteers, as well as field construction. To date, the YMCA has built four fields at the Atlanta Braves Baseball Academy through donations by Braves’ players John Smoltz, Chipper Jones, Mike Hampton and former Brave, Brian Jordan, and the Atlanta Braves Foundation.

“The Atlanta Braves Baseball Academy gives our organization the opportunity to further demonstrate our commitment to the youth in our community,” Ericka Newsome-Hill, Executive Director of the Atlanta Braves Foundation, said. “Through our partnership with the Metro Atlanta YMCAs and Little League, it is our goal to significantly increase the number of inner-city youth playing baseball and help develop within them a love for the game.

“The instruction at the baseball academy coupled with the YMCA programming not only exposes the children to the sport but also provides them with the necessary character development tools to succeed in life,” Mrs. Newsome-Hill said.

“Last year (2007) was our first full year with Little League,” Mr. Pruitt said. “We did not just jump into this. After researching other youth baseball programs, we decided Little League gave us the best opportunity to succeed in terms of resources, training and equipment.

“Little League sets a high standard, and gave us the opportunity to develop a framework,” Mr. Pruitt said. “This is a program in progress. We did a lot of great things last year, but we still have a lot of work to do. It’s our plan to expand our program to other YMCAs in the suburbs, because we want more communities coming together and creating more diversity.”

Critiquing the first full season of operating a Little League program, Mr. Pruitt was pleased with the overall outcome, but knows that there are plenty of untapped neighborhoods who can benefit from the Atlanta Metro YMCA’s Little League program.

Growing participation by working with the Atlanta Park and Recreation Department and incorporating other YMCAs throughout suburban Atlanta will benefit the program.

“The key to our success is word of mouth and how well we communicate,” Mr. Pruitt said. “In December, calls will go out to players and coaches from last year, reminding them to register for 2009.

“We’ll continue to offer incentives to get more players involved, and as part of an aggressive sponsorship program, we are putting together a brochure we can market,” he said. “We want to create a baseball brand that we all can be proud of, and hopefully in the next four to five years we’ll have 1,000 or more children playing.”

The YMCAs in Atlanta have served suburban and inner city residents for 150 years and continue to build upon the Y’s national legacy of building strong families, strong kids and strong communities. Locally, the YMCAs in metro Atlanta serve more than 140,000 children annually in after-school care, summer camps, and youth sports, while nationally, one in three Americans reports participating in a YMCA program at some point in their life.

The YMCA, founded in London, England, in 1844, is one of the largest social service organizations in the world, responding to the diverse needs of individuals in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Europe, and North America.

There are more than 2,600 YMCAs in the United States. The YMCA, which has its world headquarters based in Chicago, currently serves more than 40 million youth and families worldwide.

Anyone interested in registering a player in one of these Little League programs, or donating time as a league volunteer, is asked to call The Villages at Carver Family YMCA, at: 404-635-9622.

For more information on the YMCA/Little League partnership, contact Rc Pruitt, at: 404-373-6561, or via e-mail, at: rcpruitt@ymcaatlanta.org. Little League’s website is: www.LittleLeague.org.