Americorps cadet Brandie Coleman gives a congragulatory hug to Mekiah Johnson as Krystal Scott makes it scross home plate Wednesday during the Pine Bluff Police Department Baseball and Softball Camp at Regional Park. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
Miraja Lee gets a hit Wednesday during the Pine Bluff Police Department Baseball and Softball Camp at Regional Park. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
Hugs await Mekiah Johnson as she crosses home plate Wednesday during the Pine Bluff Police Department Baseball and Softball Camp at Regional Park. (Special to the Commercial/William Harvey)
Giving young people something positive to do during spring break while working at building their skills was the goal this week as the Pine Bluff Police Department conducted its annual Baseball and Softball Camp at Regional Park.
“This is an opportunity for kids to learn the right way,” said Lt. JoAnn Bates, who was serving as one of the instructors at the camp Wednesday. “Nothing is more rewarding than to coach these kids and then see them somewhere else and they will run up to you and hug you and ask if you remember them.”
Dollarway High School football coach Cortez Lee said the camp was about more than teaching baseball and softball.
“It’s also about sportsmanship and having a good attitude,” Lee said, adding that there were 73 young people from ages 5 to 15 participating in this year’s camp.
In addition to Lee, police officers and Americorps Cadets, members of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff baseball team and Jeff Gross of Pro-Day Baseball volunteered their time to serve as coaches and mentors.
“This is some pretty cool stuff,” Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks said as he watched some of the action Wednesday morning. “”When I took over, I met with Lt. (Shirley) Warrior and she gave me a list of programs that she recommended we keep being involved in.
“Since she was our supervisor of the year, I deferred to her judgment and as long as we can afford to maintain these beneficial programs, we are going to,” Hubanks said.
Both Bates and Hubanks said one of the goals for the camp is to show police officers in a different light to the youngsters who attend.
“We want them to recognize that we’re there to help them,” Bates said. “We’re also teaching leadership skills, respect for each other, and how to deal with bullying, things that will benefit the kids back on the streets.”
“The kids can have fun for a few days and develop their skills, and interact with police in a fun environment,” Hubanks said. “Hopefully, that will carry over to something good for all of us for a long time.”
The Mayor’s Office, Sissy’s Log Cabin and UAPB also helped sponsor the camp, which has become an annual event during spring break.