"I'm looking forward to a quiet summer," said Helen Harley of northeast Washington. She expects three of her four sons - ages 9, 10, and 11 - to be busy the next few months playing softball with the D.C. Americans Youth League.
The youth league was formed this year by the D.C. Americans, a local softball team composed primarily of Metropolitan Police officers. Due to the volunteer work done by the D.C. Americans, the District this summer will have its first softball league for boys ages 9 to 15, said James Hayes, a youth league spokesman.
Following a parade down H Street NE, led by the McCollough Royal Knights Drum and Bugle Corps, the league last Saturday held an opening day ceremony at the Sherwood Playground.
In an address to the crowd of more than 180 persons, D.C. councilwoman Nadine Winter commended efforts of the D.C. Americans, and gave special praise to police officers on the team for "performance over and above the call of duty."
"The idea for the youth league came from playing softball on local playgrounds," says Gerald Rich, member of the D.C. Americans and officer in the Metropolitan Police.
"Whenever we played softball, the kids would hang around and watch us. After a while, we began to develop a good rapport with them." And, said Rich, this was no small accomplishment. "At first, most of the kids couldn't believe the police were human."
Forming a youth league will give the kids something to do and keep them off the streets, said team member Willis Hamilton, local businessman and financial contributor to the league. "Rather than having kids running around and being a nuisance, we thought it would be better to give them something to do. This way we can be friends instead of enemies," he said.
Setting up operations in office space donated by Hamilton, the D.C. Americans began soliciting funds for equipment and uniforms from local businesses and recruiting for the youth league.
"The response has been temendous," said Charles Battle, team president of the D.C. Americans. "We now have eight teams with 20 kids on each, plus uniforms, equipment and insurance for all of them." Each team will be coached by a member of the D.C. Americans.
Tyrone Harris, executive director of the D.C. Americans Youth League and a Metropolitan Police officer, said, "We hope the parade and opening day ceremonies will encourage the boys to continue participating in this program."
A hot dog lunch followed the ceremonies at the Sherwood Playground at 10th and G Streets NE.
Approving of the efforts of the D.C. Americans, Isaac McKee, director of unit operations for the D.C. Department of Recreation, said the department gives full support to the youth league and plans to insure playing fields are made available to them.
The youth league, which is not affiliated with the Metropolitan Police Boys Clubs, will play its first game on June 7.