CHICAGO (CBS) — Kids playing baseball on a sunny afternoon isn’t news, but what’s happening in Englewood this summer certainly is.
Wednesday was opening day for the Englewood Police/Youth Summer Baseball League. Chicago police are the coaches, and the kids are just enjoying the summer making new friends with the officers.
“It bridges the gap between the community and the police officers. It shows police officers in a different light, and I think it’s a great opportunity for people to see the Chicago Police Department helping out, actually being involved in the community,” said Officer Toriano Clinton, a coach with EPYBLeague.
Clinton was on the field at Hamilton Park hours ahead of the first pitch, because the kids couldn’t wait.
“One of my coaches was an ex-Chicago police officer,” he said.
Like his former college baseball coach, Clinton picked baseball and law enforcement. He said 15 years in is the perfect time to be an example for kids on his Englewood beat.
“He was a great mentor for me, and that’s why I want to give back now, and be that same mentor that he was for me to the kids,” he said.
Dasean Birgans was the first Tiger to arrive at the field on Wednesday, and he seemed to have already learned an important lesson from the cops turned coaches.
“I like about playing, like, having good sportsmanship and meeting other people,” he said.
Program coordinator Glen Brooks said it’s important for kids to see police officers out of uniform, and interacting with the community.
“All our police officers are part of the community, and the police officers aren’t just there to lock people up,” he said.
There is a similar league in the Lawndale neighborhood, and the department is hoping to add teams in more communities next year.