Starting a Sport After You’re a Preschooler is Sadly, Unheard Of
My son was 12 when he decided to play baseball. He had never shown much interest in playing sports prior to this and had no experience playing baseball. He just wanted to give it a try.
I (naively) thought he could start out with a class to learn some of the skills. All I could find were classes offered for 4 and 5 year olds. Apparently once you’re school age, you’re on your own. (Did you know the average age that kids start playing baseball is 6 years old?)
After countless Google searches, talking to friends and asking on Facebook, it sounded like the only option was to join a league.
I was a little hesitant to put him directly into a league because honestly, he just wanted to be part of a team and have some fun! I wondered if joining a team with kids who had been playing for years might be discouraging and not end up feeling very “fun.”
OnBase with GRPD was the Perfect Answer
Thankfully, a friend recommended the OnBase program with GRPD. I didn’t have a lot of information about it, but it was only a short-term summertime commitment, so we gave it a shot. And it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for!
If you have a 9-12 year old who is interested in baseball but has never played before (or just wants to play for fun), I would highly recommend this program. Run by Grand Rapids Police Department officers and totally free, it’s a great way to try out baseball in a very encouraging, super low pressure environment.
Cops and Baseball: What is OnBase with GRPD?
OnBase with GRPD was started five years ago as a joint effort between Grand Rapids Police Department and Grand Rapids Parks and Rec, with their goal being one of “mentorship and relationship-building, wherein city youth will have meaningful, positive interactions with police officers in a non-enforcement capacity.”
All coaches are GRPD police officers, with assistance from other GRPD employees and interns, and the program is open to all children ages 9-12. Although the original idea was to reach kids in the city, you don’t have to live within the city limits to participate. I loved seeing the diversity and interaction of boys and girls from all different areas around Grand Rapids.
I found the coaches to be encouraging and supportive of all players, no matter their ability, and there seemed to be a real emphasis on having fun and celebrating success.
It’s Totally Free – Including Equipment, Uniforms and Lunch
Not only is all the baseball equipment provided for practices and games, but each player gets a new uniform, and cleats are also available to those who need them. In addition, lunch is provided for all players at every practice and game. Plus- every kid is invited to attend a Detroit Tigers or West Michigan Whitecaps game!
I was curious about how all of this is funded, so I reached out to JP Guerrero, who heads up the OnBase with GRPD program. He explained that the funding comes from the Grand Rapids Police Foundation, which is a non-profit organization focused on assisting the GRPD in their community outreach.
Berger Chevrolet is the largest financial supporter of the OnBase with GRPD program and other local businesses also provide assistance financially or through donations of food or equipment.
Look for Sign-Ups in April and May
If your child is interested in participating in OnBase with GRPD, keep an eye out for registration near the end of April or beginning of May. You can sign up at the GR Parks and Rec website and find additional information on the OnBase with GRPD Facebook page.
All practices and games take place at Huff Park and the season runs six weeks, starting once Grand Rapids Public Schools let out for the summer. Typically the first half of the season involves two practices a week, then games are played during the second half. Each season closes with a baseball tournament and awards.
You or Your Business can Partner With GRPD in This Program
If you are associated with a business that would like to support the program financially, please contact Sergeant Dan Adams ([email protected]) at the Grand Rapids Police Foundation.
If you are interested in providing donations to the program (baseball equipment or food) or if you have additional questions about the program, you can contact JP Guerrero at [email protected].