On Saturday, my friends and I took a tour to the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy (NYBA) in Southeast DC. The reason I took the tour because I donated during #GivingTuesday and the NYBA asked if I wanted to take the tour and I accepted their invitation. I’m glad I did. Here are a few tidbits you need to know about NYBA:
- The facilities cost $17 million.
- As of now, it’s 3rd-6th graders, but will expand to 8th graders, but could potentially expand to 12th graders (seniors in high school).
- It is a selective process. The Academy not only talks to kids, but the parents as well and what they want out of this. The Academy is not looking for baseball/softball players; they want kids who are willing to learn and become better students where baseball/softball is an after-school activity they enjoy. The program is free for scholarship kids. This IS NOT a baseball academy where you play only baseball; it’s a school-enhancement and after school activity program. There is a waiting list right now to get in NYBA.
- The Youth Academy was build as a requirement for all MLB teams to have a youth academy. When the Lerners bought the team in 2006, it was agreed to build one. After 6-7 years of politics and bureaucracy, the Nats Youth Academy program begin and in 2014, the Academy was completed with a brand new facility.
- In Wards 7 & 8, the dropout rate, in high school, is 60%.
- For more details about the Academy, The New York Times did a story on the NYBA a few months ago.
The Academy is located in Southeast D.C., near the Minnesota Ave. Metro station. This was the first time I’ve been to the area and to be frank, it’s a rough neighborhood, although the area has a new residential/office building next to the Minnesota Ave Metro station and NYBA. I decided to walk because I needed my exercise.
What you notice immediately about NYBA is the facilities are state-of-the art; it is surrounded by elementary and middle schools; and it seems out of place. That was the Nationals plan all along. The reason the Nationals wanted to build in Southeast D.C. was to rebuild a community. They know that 8% of African-Americans are playing in MLB and participation and viewership in baseball are dropping significantly (to be fair, all sports are dropping in participation). The NYBA was intentionally put in SE DC to be a safe haven for kids.
Preston, our tour guy that day and who works in development for NYBA, told a story that there was a shooting near the NYBA facilities. The scholarship kids were coming out of the bus and ran inside and were stunned by the incident. Thirty minutes later, the kids were back to normal like nothing happened. Of the shooting, kids would be traumatized, but these kids are used to it in their own neighborhoods, it’s like a normal day for them. If it was not for NYBA existing, I don’t know where the kids would be.
Another story Preston told us was about how Ian Desmond (please, save the error talk for now) hang around NYBA and was a mentor for most of these kids. In December, Anthony Rendon and Dusty Baker came to NYBA to help out. Rendon met a girl and wanted to talk, but the girl wanted to see Ian Desmond. So, NYBA setup a video chat for the girl and Ian to chat for a few minutes.
Then, we took the tour of the facility and I was amazed how clean it is and the vantage point is one of the best.
If you want the best view, go to the observatory deck and see almost all of Washington D.C.
Another awesome aspect about NYBA is their classrooms. It is small because it’s a selective group, but there’s a routine that if the boys are outside playing baseball, the girls are in the classroom, but it switches over wear the girls play softball or baseball and the boys are in the classroom.
In the classroom windows, you will see a baseball or softball field to give hope to kids that if you’re doing well, you could be out there on the field, either baseball or a different capacity.
NYBA has garden called the Field of Greens, where they make their own produce and also an alternative to kids who are eating at fast food restaurants. The fruits, vegetables, and herbs go to the kitchen, where it has a TV screen and projector to see how it’s cooked.
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and a Day of Community Service. I donated money to the Academy because I was Nationals fan and I already donated a lot to the Dream Foundation and I wanted to change it up. After taking the tour, I will try to donate to NYBA every year on #GivingTuesday because when I took that long walk from Minnesota Ave. Metro to NYBA, I understand why the facility was in place and if this makes kids better students and better people, then I’m willing to chip in to help them to where they want to be in the future. It will be 5-6 years until we know the success of NYBA, but from the looks of it, and with other teams (including the Tampa Bay Lightning, of all teams) copying the NYBA plan by asking them or giving advice to other teams, it looks like to be a resounding success and going to be a huge part of the D.C. community soon.
To donate, volunteer, mentor, or hold an event at NYBA, go to http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/youthbaseballacademy/
Of note: NYBA and the Nationals Dream Foundation are separate entities. For more info on the Dream Foundation, go to http://washington.nationals.mlb.com/was/community/foundation/