Jays Care Rookie League changes lives through baseball

WATCH ABOVE: Blue Jays Baseball Academy Rookie League is a program that uses the game of baseball as a foundation to teach children the importance of teamwork, cooperation, and self esteem. Susan Hay has the story in this week’s Making a Difference. 

TORONTO — During the summer months and after school hours, the Jays Care Foundation offers the Rookie League baseball program for free in under-privileged communities in order to promote positive development.

The league provides a safe, fun, active and engaging baseball program for children and teens, ages five to 18, who might not otherwise have the chance to participate in recreational or organized sports.

“Over 70% are playing for their first time and we think it’s really important that organized sport is available to all kids,” said Robert Witchel, Executive Director of the Jays Care Foundation.

“These kids in particular because they’re dealing with things in their lives which are a lot more challenging than most kids are”.

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The program uses the game of baseball as a foundation to teach children the importance of teamwork, cooperation and self-esteem.

“It makes me feel better, waking up every day in the morning coming here,” said Kyra Antoine-Jones, a Rookie league participant.

In it’s 27th year, the program continues to break barriers to organized sport for more than 8,000 children and youth, coast to coast.

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Blue Jays pitcher Aaron Sanchez lends his time to support Rookie League participants.

“I’ve come through a similar program when I grew up,” said Sanchez.

“I know what these kids are going through growing up, and I kinda went through the same thing, and so for me to give back to these guys, it means the most to me.”

Jays Care Foundation has partnered with Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada, the Y, Pathways to Education Canada, and Toronto Community Housing in order to make Rookie League possible.

Ebenezer Fordjour participated in Rookie League many years ago. Now he’s working with Toronto Community Housing and as a coach for the program as well.

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“Every day I go home feeling a lot more self-fulfilling, just knowing that I’m making a difference,” said Fordjour.

“It’s just a great feeling to know that you wake up, go to work, and you’re impacting and changing someone’s life.”

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