ST. PETERSBURG – A protest/rally was held Sat., April 4 at Childs Park’s baseball field to drum up support and interest in helping inner-city kids play baseball.
Thomas English has taken it upon himself for the last 15 years to try and round up enough children from their homes every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday to play ball. He calls it RNBI: Reviving Negro Baseball in Inner Cities.
English takes them to the park, teaches them the game of baseball, mentors them and then takes them back home. No game for them.
They have no uniforms and no teams to play against. They can’t afford the uniforms, insurance and thus far, English said, he has not had a positive response when contacting Little League coaches when it comes to playing with his teams.
He said the children are tired of practicing three days a week and not being able to play. English fears that one by one they are going to head back to the streets. He tries to introduce to the children the passion for the sport, a sense of teamwork and community. He stands up for the underdogs, but who stands up for him?
English believes racism is involved but according to the President of Bay Point Little League Kevin Walsh, there are additional factors in play.
Walsh said he’s never been contacted by Coach English or the outcome may have been a little different. He said he’s willing to play a game “here and there.” Little League is licensed with the state and federal government and is a non-profit. In addition to receiving the necessary fees from the parents of ball players, Bay Point Little League is supported in part by the Achieva Credit Union. There are jerseys, socks, hats and more that must be covered. In fact, they have to rent the field, pay for liability insurance and more.
Walsh is willing to speak with English to get “special games” approved. “That’s what they’re called, special games,” Walsh said as he explained it takes about two weeks to get each special game approved by Little League International.
Little League Baseball must have liability insurance when playing against other leagues that cost around $1,500 per year.
Walsh said his child was in a camp at Eckerd College one summer and another child got hurt. The family sued for $10,000,000 and they had to shut down the camp. “People sue,” he said.
His territory goes from East Central Avenue to all the way west of 34th Street. They want to draw more children from the Campbell Park area, but that is not permitted to happen at this time. Right now, if kids want to play on their league, they’d have to get a ride over to Bay Point, and in many cases that is just too far.
With regard to racism playing a role in why others families and children may not want to play in certain areas of south St. Pete, Walsh begrudgingly admitted that although he didn’t feel this way, “Some leagues don’t want to come to the south end. There are some teams that will not, and unfortunately we have to deal with that.”
English maintains that he has asked people repeatedly, “Can my black kids play with you all,” to which they respond, “Let me check with coach so and so,” but never get back to him.
He believes it’s because of hate. He said he’s been a witness to all of it. “With the old Negros, the field of baseball is filled with corruption, jealousy and hate. If they are less than you they won’t play you,” English said. He said he goes through this every baseball season.
He wants to raise awareness. “Negro baseball is back without the Negro. The Negro don’t give a damn about the Negro,” he said adding that he does not get the response from people that he believes he should.
English said he picks up the kids, takes them to the park, mentors them, they practice and he takes them home. The children are ages 12 and under and they can been seen at either Childs Park or Campbell Park.
He’s calling out to “non-hateful baseball fans” and asking people to protest Little League Baseball and its structured hate toward black children, calling them Little League Baseball victims.
English has sent a 2×4 letter to President Barack Obama and has contacted several other politicians to draw attention to his cause. He wants people to know that Negro baseball is back.
English has written a book entitled “Negro Baseball is Back! Without the Negro.” The price is $100 a copy for the 16-page book. He explained the reason for the adsorbent price is because with each copy sold, a uniform can be purchased.
He’s also looking for “non-hateful sponsors.” You may make your checks out to him and send them to: 1831 Martin Luther King Street S. Unit #1, St. Petersburg, FL 33704.
“They aren’t getting the chance to play the actual game of baseball. They want to play a real game,” he stressed.
The mayor’s office was contacted and said they were going to see if something could be done through the Parks and Recreation Department. Also, Mert Leeman, president of the Little League Baseball Florida District Administrators has also been contacted.
On his website it reads that they “encourage all of the Little Leagues in Florida to continue to expand their Baseball, Softball and Challenger Programs to make them available to as many boys and girls as possible. The more kids that get to participate, the better!”
However, the problem with that is that not all boys and girls can afford to participate. Little League is a non-profit entity and depends greatly on contributors. Leeman said he is working on what he can do to help the City of St. Pete deal with this issue.