CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Police hope hitting line drives will drive some South side kids to a bright future.
The Englewood baseball league is covering all bases, on and off the field.READ MORE: Man Shot On Eisenhower Expressway Suffers Non-Life Threatening Injuries
CBS 2’s Audrina Bigos went to catch game one of the league’s fourth season.
Thursday marked opening day the Englewood Police Youth Baseball League, as players warmed up for a summer of fun on the field in Englewood’s Hamilton Park.
The league’s founder, Marco Johnson, says it is bigger than baseball.
It’s Opening Day for the Englewood Police Youth Baseball League!
— Audrina Bigos (@AudrinaBigos) July 5, 2018
“We need to give the kids another direction, another choice other than gangs and drugs,” Marco Johnson said, describing the mission of the Englewood Police Youth Baseball League.
“When they see so much violence and crime all over the city… this is a safe haven for them,” said 7th District Commander Kenneth Johnson.
The league was also created as an effort to mend relationships between South side youth and police.READ MORE: Kayden Swann, 21-Month-Old Shot In Road Rage Incident, Out Of Medically Induced Coma
“It’s hard to basically communicate with officers in this neighborhood because most of the time there’s mostly crime here,” said player Derrick Edmoneson.
— 7th DISTRICT ENGLEWOOD (@ChicagoCAPS07) July 5, 2018
13-year-old Derrick Edmoneson is in the 3rd year with the league. He says the coaches serve as his motivators and the police serve as his mentors.
“We get to explain our emotions to the police officers,” he said. “We share good, bad, happy, and sad.”
Commander Kenneth Johnson said, “Now we’re seeing police outside of law enforcement. They’ve become role models and friends.”
The league’s founder agreed. “We want guys like that in front of our kids because they don’t, most of the time, have a father in their life.”
Boys and girls ages 8 through 12 play once a week with their coaches, their families, their team, and police cheering them on.
“I hope they become successful citizens, non-violent citizens,” said Johnson. “We’re hoping they’re becoming educated and get their degrees, high school diplomas.”MORE NEWS: Man With 13-Year-Old Adam Toledo When He Was Fatally Shot By Police Facing Felony Gun Charges
The league is starting its fourth season. They now have six teams that play on Thursday nights. Sometimes they play other police districts in North Lawndale and Austin.