IT HAS become depressingly commonplace in the District to hear stories of people enriching themselves at the expense of children they claim to be serving. The council member who bought a luxury car with money intended for disadvantaged youth comes to mind. So does the boxing coach who squandered charitable funds on gambling vacations. So it was pure delight to learn of efforts by one good citizen of the District to bring baseball — and a new way of life — to children in Southeast Washington.
Jason Medina, a 30-year-old officer with the Metropolitan Police Department who conceived and helped build the successful “Ward 7 Baseball” program, was recently featured by NBC News and in a richly told story by The Post’s Dave Sheinin. Mr. Medina grew up in the projects of Harlem and credited Harlem RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) with giving him the life lessons and opportunities to succeed. All too aware of the problems that confront inner-city youth — he sees them on his daily police patrol — he wanted to give back. Thus was born a program that uses the joy and discipline of baseball to teach the value of teamwork and the importance of working hard.
Three years ago, in his spare time and on his own dime, Mr. Medina, helped by former Harlem baseball teammate Jose Agosto, went to work reclaiming an old ball field from neglect and detritus, enlisting coaches and reaching out to kids who at first didn’t quite know what to think of this cop who wanted them to learn how to play ball. The program caught on — 72 youth, ages 7 to 16, are served each year — and the effects rippled through the community. People lined up along the fences to watch the Saturday games. They brought barbecue grills and coolers of Gatorade to feed the players. They wanted to know what they could do to help the program, Mr. Sheinin reported.
“We’ve had people just pull up on the roadside: ‘Hey!’ And they’ll just toss over a bag full of gloves. Or, ‘I got some pants here! I got some old cleats!’,” said one Ward 7 Baseball coach. Mr. Medina hopes to extend the program, and the public offers of help that have followed publicity about his good works should spur that effort. But the beauty of what Mr. Medina has accomplished — the lesson to be learned from his example — lies in his promise that “even if 10 years from now we’re still on a nothing budget, we’ll still be here, as long as we can keep paying it forward.”