In April of 2013, I took on the role of founding executive director of the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy. The organization aspired to use baseball and softball as vehicles for the holistic development of young people in some of Washington, D.C.’s most underserved communities, but the plan to accomplish this objective had yet to be written. Fortunately for me, I had the partnership of then Nationals shortstop, Ian Desmond, to build and begin to execute that plan. Just more than eight years later, we are starting to bear the fruit of these efforts. Our first cohort of 8 and 9-year olds is beginning to prepare for college, a few baseball and softball stars have emerged from the group, and many of these Scholar Athletes now pass on their learnings in the role of coach and mentor to our youngest participants. These results were shaped in large part by Ian, but in the development of Newtown Connection, he and his partner Vince Northfield have demonstrated an insatiable thirst for learning best practices, developing a program with intention, and hitting the ground running. Because of their leadership of Newtown Connection, I am confident the future of the boys and girls of Newtown Estates is now brighter as a result.
“Our Club members love when Newtown Connection is in the building! The team is dedicated to helping them learn, play and grow both on and off the ballfield.”
It is amazing what one phone call coupled with drive and determination can lead to. Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources was extremely fortunate to receive that phone call from Ian. Sarasota County has some amazing partners that help provide great facilities, programs and services to the community. Newtown Connection is the result and recognition of working together to create a better tomorrow! One kid at a time. Many thanks to Newtown Connection and Boys and Girls Club!
If you drive by Newtown Estates Park, chances are a glimpse of the freshly cut green grass on the baseball fields will stop you in your tracks. The fields are happy and bright. The fields are that of a dream. A dream that is coming to fruition thanks to the selfless leadership of Ian and Vince and the partnerships they have spent forming to make Newtown Connection a success. It has been humbling to learn of the time and effort the team has been putting in for the benefit of children in our community. Some may say that these children are going to learn the game of baseball. From what I have seen, I believe the lessons these children will learn will be much bigger than baseball. These children will likely become the leaders of tomorrow. As Jackie Robinson once stated, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives”. Well Jackie, you would be proud. Play Ball!!!
It is not easy finding a place where a dollar donated has not been diluted by the time it gets to the point of impact. The point at which young lives are shaped, confidence is built and positive life expectations formed. In the case of Newtown Connection, I know for sure that my money is punching above its weight driven by the highly engaged founders who possess complimentary leadership qualities honed on the ball park and in the board room. Whether you’re an underprivileged kid welcomed onto the team or a donor keen to make a difference these guys will give you the confidence to give it all you got. Humility, humor and honor are engaging qualities and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute. My own bi- racial grandchildren live twenty minutes from the Newtown community and they are fortunate that their parents are able to offer them a secure upbringing. I want them to grow up in a world where opportunities abound for all children in all communities unrestricted by inequitable life preparation.
I always love Newtown Connection day! We have so much fun when they run us through the drills and give us snacks.
Our partnership with Newtown Connection is critical as we strive to provide our community’s future leaders with the tools and resources they need to become active, engaged citizens. Ian and Vince’s passion to empower youth through America’s favorite pastime gives our Club members opportunities to develop leadership skills, celebrate diversity and work together for a brighter future.
As a long-time supporter of youth sports, the mission of Newtown Connection immediately resonated with me. Having coached and supported Little League in New York City for 15 years, I have seen first-hand the power of sport to build esteem, foster teamwork, and to build bridges across children from different backgrounds and life experiences. And when this is combined with the beauty of baseball, magical things can happen. My wish is for Newtown Connection to expand its important work in communities across the country, helping children access and learn from the game that has given so much to so many across generations.