Youth League Tees Off Again in Douglass Park

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COLUMBIA - As youth sports leagues start popping up around the country in celebration of summertime, one youth league in Columbia is trying to make a difference within the community.

The Douglass Youth Baseball club, which offers T-ball, coach pitch, and kid pitch, started in 1996. It kicked off its season with a firefighters versus police officers game in Douglass Park Saturday.

Douglass Park has a bad reputation as an area riddled with crime, but that is where Sam Brady's program comes in. Brady is the coordinator of the league, and he wants to strike out bad tendencies before they begin by raising a generation of kids who would rather pick up a bat than pick up drugs.

"Without a close-knit community, we fall apart," Brady said. "But when everyone comes together and works as a team, we see great success in our children, and they grow up doing great things. And we keep them focused and balanced on positive things, instead of getting off on the wrong track."

Brady said the program grows stronger and bigger every year and said since its creation, he's seen crime rates fall in Douglass Park.

And the police agree.

"Last year we had a great turnout. Their baseball league really spiked when we started doing these baseball games," said police officer Jameson Dowler. "Parents feel a lot safer coming down here, bringing their kids, down here to play in the softball league. It's a great way with us to get in base with the community and it's showed a big difference."

Brady said one of the best parts of the league is seeing the community rally around the program.

"It's been a success since '96, we've never had an issue with crime or violence in our program, and I think we'll continue that," said Brady. "I think we'll continue watching our kids grow up, I've seen kids in our program now, that have come back as coaches."

At the game, spectators and parents milled around either watching the game or corralling the children not playing in the game, while hot dogs for the players sizzled on the grill standing in the nearby basketball court.

Since the dirt in the infield of the baseball diamond was still wet from a recent rain, the kids took to the outfield to play a quick game.

After the youth game, the police and firefighters first treated themselves to hot dogs and soda, and then the kids lined up for food. Brady said whatever food was left, they would go around to neighboring houses and ask if the residents wanted any of the food.

For more information on how to get involved with the league visit the team's page on the Columbia website.