A Washington, D.C. organization is reaching out to Black youth in the city’s Southeast quadrant to teach them about America’s oldest pastime: baseball. The Washington Nationals Youth Academy, which began in 2014, uses baseball and softball programs as a vehicle to teach young athletes about problem-solving, teamwork, communication, critical thinking and character development. The program is currently serving 150 children from Southeast D.C., free of charge.Washington Nationals mascot Screech (left) gives children high fives. (Courtesy Photo)“Everything they are doing here is so critical to our kids,” Sharon Robinson, author and daughter of Jackie Robinson, said in a statement on the Nationals Testimonials page. “Having a place like this that is beautiful, they have lots of people that support them, and they have people from their own community supporting them, as well as older mentors and teachers. It makes me feel very hopeful. I’m glad the Nationals have made this a part of their commitment to the community.”According to online media outlet The Undefeated, Black players currently comprise 7.7 percent of all the players in Major League Baseball. “Baseball is not the cheapest sport, there are a lot of materials that you need to buy in order to play,” Katina Lee, senior director of operations at the Youth Academy, told the AFRO.The academy uses baseball and softball as vehicles to foster positive character development, academic achievement, and improved health among youth from underserved communities in Washington D.C., according to its website. To participate, children must live in either Ward 7 or Ward 8 and be enrolled in the third to eighth grades. “We are here to be a model organization that nurtures the development of D.C. Youth,” Lee said. The Youth Academy has a multitude of programs for youth, including a Science of Baseball curriculum that runs for six weeks from late June to early August. The program incorporates science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as well. “It helps you learn more about baseball and the STEM concepts through the game of baseball. They even offer softball for the girls in the Academy,” Lee said. From late June to August the program offers a Summer Instructional Baseball League that teaches children about the worth of putting in effort and being able to work with a team. An after school program is also offered from October to May. The program teaches children about the fundamentals of baseball and softball. Children who participate in the program also receive mentoring for one hour every day from young professionals or retired or active duty military members.“If you build a trusting relationship with an adult you’ll make better decisions in the future,” Lee said.The academy has partnered with the local YMCA to also provide a six-week adult cooking course for community members, along with other programs that address self-defense, financial literacy, agriculture, and community service. “The majority of our budget is funded by donations – there are . . . [fundraising] actively events, individual giving by people and corporations,” said Lee.