It hurts a sports lover's eyes to see unused baseball fields in the city

ASK CAL

February 12, 2006|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

I'm 57 years old and love baseball. When I was a kid, there were seven ball fields to play on, and in summer, the organized leagues had all the fields occupied from morning to night.

These fields are still there, in the Brooklyn section of Baltimore. Sadly, there are few teams playing on these diamonds anymore, but just over the hill from these fields, there is an entire neighborhood full of underprivileged kids. What a waste of resources.

Is there any way I could help get these baseball fields filled up again? I don't know how to go about finding the right people to talk to, to spark the interest of these kids.

Merle Cutsail, Baltimore

DEAR MERLE / / It always bothers me when there are unused baseball and softball fields and I think your idea to make sure that those fields are used is a great one.

The first thing to do is reach out to the local Boys & Girls Club. Our foundation works with them on a national level and they have great programs in place. There may be a way to get some people together to introduce the fields and the game of baseball to the kids in the area.

I also suggest you contact our foundation, the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation (RipkenFoundation.org) and see whether they might be able to help.

Finally, I suggest you contact the Department of Recreation & Parks and see whether they have any immediate plans for field usage and what the parameters are for using the field.

Good luck, Merle. I think that what you are doing is outstanding and very honorable.

Do you think it's an advantage for girls to play baseball early on, then transfer to softball as a pre-teen, or should girls stick to softball from the beginning?

Bobby Baxter, Linthicum

DEAR BOBBY / / Girls should be able to play baseball as long as they can compete against the boys. The skills developed in baseball and softball, aside from pitching, are very similar and the same fundamentals apply to both.

It could be a good thing for young girls to play baseball initially as long as the transfer to softball is presented as a positive when it occurs.

The last thing you want to do is present it as a step down, because it is not. If you aren't careful you could take away the joy of the game for her.

My 12-year-old son plays baseball, football and basketball.

He enjoys playing the games, but has no desire to attend additional sport camps to improve his skills.

How do I motivate him to practice more so that he can develop from an average player into an above-average player?

Mark P. Tutkowski, Wauwatosa, Wis.

DEAR MARK / / That can be a little tricky. I strongly suggest that you don't push him too hard. The fact of the matter is that he may enjoy all of the sports but has yet to find one that he truly is passionate about. Forcing the issue now may drive him away from the sport altogether.

One thing you can do is get creative with practice. Make it more fun and do things that enhance his interest. Perhaps you could introduce more of a "pick-up game" mentality. This depressurizes the situation and gives the kids more freedom.

Kelly and I have found that by doing this with Ryan and his friends, it allows them to express themselves in an unstructured way and makes them want to play even more.

...................... Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askcal@baltimoresun.com.

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