INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 24, 2016) -- When Jerrold Parker showed up at Douglass Little League at the age of nine in Oscar Charleston Park, Sanekah Jackson-Jones expected to see her son as a basketball player out of his league on a grassy field.
Jackson-Jones was surprised when her child not only took to the diamond but excelled.
“Since that day he’s always played,” she said. “He played in high school. It was his favorite sport. His nephew was one-year-old and he was trying to teach him baseball already so he was very passionate about baseball.”
Parker went on to play baseball at Pike High School and had dreams of attending IVY Tech and studying culinary sciences when he was found shot to death in the front seat of a car at the Woods of Eagle Creek Apartments last February, barely two months before the little leaguers were set to respond to the call of, “Play Ball!”
“To me it was a great loss,” said Coach Barry Winston, “because Jerrold would have been someone who would have come here to help us just like my son is now. He would have been here with us helping kids.”
In between games of Opening Day, the pint-sized Dodgers and Rockies and Reds gathered round as a banner on the backstop of field #1 was unveiled picturing Jerrold crouched over the plate in his batting stance as the slain teen’s mom learned an annual award would be handed out to honor her son’s positive attitude and team spirit.
“It meant so much to me,” said Jackson-Jones. “It brought me back to the times that he was here, seeing the little kids faces, it brought tears to my eyes because I’m going to miss that.
“It was a blessing to see all the kids and see them paying attention to everything I was saying, pushing and staying motivated in this.”
150 children are signed up to play in the Douglass Little League, one of the oldest continuous little league organizations in the United States, and have brought along parents and adults with them this season.
“For the neighborhood, man, its rewarding because like right now, all these kids are here, there’s no violence going on,” said Winston, league vice president. “The parents get involved, they’re helping other kids out. Parents see another kid doing something they shouldn’t do, now they feel obligated to go help this kid out, so when they take that back to their neighborhoods, it strengthens their neighborhoods, its going to make their neighborhoods stronger because now it takes a village to raise a kid today.”
On this day, the team from Forest Manor ventured north to face off with the Douglass youngsters, introducing kids from across the city to each other on the field of play.
“Little league does all that stuff,” said Winston. “Sports in general can do that because if you sign your kid up now, your kid is in the Douglass Little League family, and in the Douglass Little League family, we look out for everybody’s kids.”
Winston said his organization covers the Mapleton/Fall Creek area throughout the northeast side to the Washington Park community and has room for more children and teams this spring.
For more information go to firstname.lastname@example.org or the league’s facebook page.
Oscar Charleston Park, named for one of the greatest Negro League players to ever suit up a century ago, sits across the street from IMPD North District headquarters in a focus area designated for added enforcement by police and services by the city.
After the games the players were invited to strap on helmets and climb on dozens of mountain bikes provided by the IMPD Youth Mountain Bike Project to ride the grounds of the former Indianapolis Zoo at Washington Park.
“I’ve never seen a kid out in the woods yet on a bike that didn’t have a smile on his face so hopefully we’ll see about fifty smiles out here today,” said Patrolman John Wall of IMPD’s Bike Patrol.
Bike officers, funded by donations and grants and supported by volunteers from the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association, built a mountain bike park at the site of the former lion’s den on the old zoo property.
Minutes after the last out, youngsters in baseball uniforms were pedaling and flying over hills, spraying dirt wherever they landed.
“We’re here and we’re part of the community and we want to spread the good will and have some fun with some kids and give them a different experience that they haven’t had,” said Wall. “There’s no other park like this in the metro area. It’s the first of its kind.
A grant from the Indianapolis Public Safety Foundation, and donations of retired IMPD bicycles, put the ballplayers on two wheels and off the streets for an afternoon as the Metro Police Department continues its outreach to community youth through alternative recreational programs.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of time and a lot of work, but its well worth it,” said Wall who joined with fellow officers on their days off to spend the afternoon biking with kids.
Wall said the project will invite children through Boys & Girls Clubs, Indy Parks and other organizations to tackle the mountain bike park this summer.
Chief Troy Riggs recently reported that IMPD’s PAL Club was in desperate financial straits and in need of a $60,000 infusion to stay afloat this year amid an anticipated reorganization.
The PAL Club is a not an IMPD program, though the department does assign officers to mentor and train children in sports and activities.
PAL is governed by a volunteer board that has found itself stymied in recent fundraising efforts.