On Saturday March 2, KidSport Ontario and Jays Care Foundation provided Fun Zone, a free and fun baseball focused afternoon for Rookie League players from across the city at Out of the Park Sports' baseball facility.
Philip, 4, poses while the rest of the Fun Zone participants take a group shot
The Fun Zone event was open to 70 Rookie League participants who have a desire to play more baseball beyond the Rookie League season, but face barriers because of the costs to play.
"We are proud to partner with Toronto Community Housing and KidSport Ontario to offer the Blue Jays Baseball Fun Zone," said Rob Drynan, executive director of Jays Care Foundation. "This is a great opportunity to introduce baseball to a number of kids in under-resourced neighbourhoods in the GTA. Many of our Rookie Leaguers are new to Canada, and have never experienced the joy and camaraderie of playing baseball with friends. Our aim is to remove the barriers to accessing the sport, and to help these kids reach their full potential."
Participants rotated through three baseball stations that focused on the fundamentals of baseball: fielding, throwing and hitting. The players were given the opportunity to speak with varsity baseball players from the University of Toronto with diverse backgrounds, who shared stories about their athletic and academic careers, and how they got where they are today. The event helped teach Rookie Leaguers how to improve their skills on the field and in life.
Andre Abdul, 19, a Rookie League coach, shares his thoughts about what makes Rookie League important
"The kids love it. Coming out of their comfort zone and getting a chance to play something new is what it's all about," says Andre Abdul, coach and resident of Cooper Mills. "Getting a chance to meet the Blue Jays is a huge motivation. They find it so cool to play where the players play. They think - I can do that too!"
Participants had the chance to register in their local league for the upcoming season with the support of KidSport Ontario. Through this partnership, young Toronto Community Housing residents will have the opportunity to play with their local baseball association at no cost.
"Every child in Canada should have opportunity to gain the mental, physical and social benefits developed through sport. Sport helps develop healthy individuals and healthy communities," says David Carr-Harris, Manager, KidSport Ontario. "We are very excited to work with Toronto Community Housing and the Jays Care Foundation to ensure that families facing financial barriers can provide their kids with the chance to participate in sports."
"I think it's great for the community and the youth. It keeps them out of trouble," says Sandra Ramsay, a mother and resident from Gordonridge. "The youth here are respectful and my daughter Tamelia enjoys it a lot. This will be her fifth year."
See more photos from the Fun Zone event here
About Rookie League
Each summer, the Jays Care Foundation in partnership with Toronto Community Housing runs Rookie League, a summer-long baseball day-camp. Rookie League gives participants the opportunity to play, learn and enjoy the game of baseball. Now in its in 25th season, Rookie League helps to build strong communities by teaching life lessons about teamwork, leadership and fair play, on and off the field. Rookie League also provides opportunities for physical fitness, health and nutrition education, and encourages participants to lead a healthy, active lifestyle. Learn more about Rookie League here