Play ball! More than 1,200 youth take part in Rookie League Opening Day

Play ball! More than 1,200 youth take part in Rookie League Opening Day

July 13, 2017

Rookie League 2017 participants take part in Opening Day activities at Centennial ParkRookie League 2017 participants take part in Opening Day activities at Centennial Park.

Let's play ball! On July 6, more than 1,200 children and youth from across Toronto Community Housing (TCHC) gathered at Centennial Park to launch the 29th season of Rookie League, a free summer day-camp program for kids ages 6 to 13, offered with our partners at Jays Care Foundation.

The program, which runs five days a week from July to August, teaches youth about leadership, teamwork, community and fair-play. Campers take part in weekly baseball drills, arts and crafts projects, and field trips, and go on adventures in their local communities.  

Each year, Toronto Community Housing and Jays Care kick off the Rookie League season with a fun-filled Opening Day event. The young Rookie Leaguers take part in games, win prizes and meet a few special guests along the way. This year was no exception!  

Rookie League all-stars help kick-off Opening Day

The day started off bright and early as campers from 43 TCHC communities arrived at Centennial Park in Etobicoke. Rookie League campers and staff were all decked out in their Blue Jays gear thanks to Jays Care Foundation, which provided each participant with a t-shirt, cap, water bottle and backpack.

All geared up and ready to go, the campers set their sights on the team challenge. Each team visited activity stations set up across the park, taking part in obstacle courses, face painting booths and arts and crafts stations, and earning points for speed, positive attitudes, cooperation and creativity.            

Rookie League kids get hands on with arts and crafts activites and face painting on Opening Day.Rookie League kids get hands on with arts and crafts activities and face painting on Opening Day.

From a bubble challenge to a piggy-back obstacle course, the Rookie League campers really got into the competitive spirit. 

Campers take part in a bubble challenge, piggy-back obstacle course and answer skill-testing questions. Campers take part in a bubble challenge, piggy-back obstacle course and answer skill-testing questions. 

After a morning of activities, the campers really worked up an appetite. Teams were treated to a nutritious lunch, thanks to our partners at the Sprott Foundation, and enjoyed hot dogs, juice and fruit bars as they refueled before the afternoon's activities.  

Staff and kids take a well-deserved lunch break, complete with hots dogs and popcorn, thanks to the Sprott Foundation. Staff and kids take a well-deserved lunch break, complete with hot dogs and popcorn, thanks to the Sprott Foundation. 

The kids heard a quick pep talk from Angela Cooke, TCHC's Vice President of Resident and Community Services, and Robert Witchel, Jays Care Foundation's Executive Director. They really got into the spirit, cheering for their teams and communities and even taking part in the wave.

The campers were also treated to some snacks, including fresh popcorn and ice cold snow cones, which were a huge hit in the scorching heat!

Making a real impact in communities

Since its inception, the Rookie League program has grown into a comprehensive summer program. When Rookie League first began in 1988, there were less than 300 participants. More than 1,100 kids from 43 TCHC communities took part in 2016 and more than 1,200 kids are in the program this year.

Rookie League campers take a break from the action.The Rookie League program first launched in 1988, giving TCHC kids a chance to be active and build leadership skills over the summer. 

Through Rookie League, Toronto Community Housing hires more than 100 local youth every summer as Rookie League camp counsellors, mentors and coaches – providing job opportunities and a chance to serve as a role model to younger kids in the community. 

Rookie League kids and their camp leaders pose for the camera.Rookie League kids and their camp leaders pose for the camera.

The program gives youth a chance to develop their skills both on and off the field, engage with kids in their neighbourhoods and create lasting memories!
Rookie League kids form strong bonds and friendships with their teammates over the summer. Rookie League kids form strong bonds and friendships with their teammates over the summer. 

A special guest drops by Opening Day!

After lunch, the Rookie League campers got a BIG surprise as Blue Jays pitcher Joe Biagini dropped by to greet the kids. Joe got right into the action, leading campers through a skill-testing activity and offering points to teams who answered questions to his quiz correctly. 

Blue Jays pitcher Joe Biagini drops by on Opening Day. Blue Jays pitcher Joe Biagini drops by on Opening Day. 

The campers were very excited to get up close and personal with the Blue Jays player and some even went home with an autographed t-shirt!

As the afternoon went on, the kids were eager to earn as many points as possible, working hard to visit as many activity stations as they could.

Rookie League kids get into the comptetitive spirit with interactive games and challenges. Rookie League kids get into the competitive spirit with interactive games and challenges. 

Rookie League campers go home with an awesome gift

Once all the scores had been tallied and all the games had been played, it was almost time to head home. Rookie League campers were in for one more surprise: each of them went home with two free books donated by our partners at First Book Canada. From sci-fi and fantasy to comic books and non-fiction, campers were really excited to pick out their favourite book. 

Campers show off the two books they got to take home, thanks to First Book Canada. Campers show off the two books they got to take home, thanks to First Book Canada. 

Each camper went home with a big smile on their face and ready for a fun-filled summer of baseball. If the energy, enthusiasm and effort seen at Opening Day is any indication, the 2017 season of Rookie League is set to hit it out of the park!

Rookie League kids are all smiles as they head home after an action-packed Opening Day.Rookie League kids are all smiles as they head home after an action-packed Opening Day.

A big thank you to the entire staff at Jays Care Foundation, as well as Sherwin Modeste and the Active Living team in our Resident and Community Services Division, for organizing yet another grand slam Opening Day. We can't wait to see what the 2017 Rookie League season has in store!