A new program in Prince George County, Maryland aims to strengthen the relationship between the community and the county police department through the national pastime: baseball.
A new facility in Prince George County, Maryland aims to strengthen the relationship between the community and the county police department through the national pastime: baseball.
The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, with support from Group 1001, is close to completing the 101st Foundation Youth Development Park (YDP) at the Prince George County Police Department Headquarters in Landover.
Not only will the field be located at the police headquarters, but some officers will also be coaches.
Scheduled to open this winter, it will be the first YDP developed by the Foundation to be built on the grounds of a police department.
“Law enforcement wants to have a relationship in communities and neighborhoods,” said Hall of Fame member Cal Ripken Jr., who co-founded the Foundation with his brother Bill. “Sometimes the police are seen as coming right in and catching the bad guys. If you sweeten that up by teaching kids baseball skills or athletic skills and come up with a coach’s hat instead of a police uniform, you start to build a relationship.
The YDP in Prince George County is the culmination of a relationship between the Foundation and the County Police Department that began in 2013. It was at this point that the Police Department launched the Badges program. for Baseball from the Foundation that connects children with local law enforcement.
“The Badges for Baseball program essentially turns law enforcement officers into coaches,” Ripken said. “We really think of these youth development parks as outdoor classrooms. A coach can actually spend a little more time with you than a teacher just because of the nature of the sport.
For Ripken, building these safe places for children to play and learn is about helping build lives while continuing his late father’s legacy. Cal Ripen Sr. was at home on the baseball field and loved teaching the game to anyone, anywhere.
“We were driving together in a car, and every once in a while he would see kids just playing in a park and pull over,” Ripken recalls of times he spent with his father in spring training. “We would jump and start playing wrestling with them. My dad had so much fun with it. Basically we’re trying to teach kids baseball and in doing that, teach them a little bit about life and find them mentors. It’s about opening up a whole new world to these children.
In Landover, kids will not only be able to play baseball, but also enjoy a multi-purpose lawn park. Profit is the key word. The YDPs developed by the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation are not intended to develop future Hall of Famers. Instead, the goal is to use baseball and other athletic experiences to help children excel in all aspects of their lives.
For over 20 years, the Foundation has worked to place YDPs in some of America’s most underserved and distressed communities. Across the country – from Maine to California, Florida to Washington and at intermediate points – these facilities are part of the fabric of communities through partnerships with law enforcement and youth service agencies. In addition to the games on the ground, the Foundation is active in the creation of STEM Centers.
“We think of these places as safe places to play, and the byproduct of some of these terrains is that we have discovered that they are transformational,” said Ripken. “I think the community sees how nice they are and then they protect them.”
Last year, Ripken estimated that the Foundation impacted 1.5 million children through its youth development parks. Landover’s YDP marks the Foundation’s 101st, and more are on the way.
“If we get them to go through our program and get them to high school, can we find a way to get them to college?” Ripken said. “Then can we find a way to help them in college and when they get out, can we find a way to help them in the workforce?” These are things parents often help with, but a lot of the children we try to have don’t have these influences.