The Garfield Park Little League Newcomers are the Illinois State Champions – as baseball players and as gentlemen. (Photo by Brad)
They look like any other West Side kids, but they are monsters on the base paths – and they are champions! The 11 & 12 year olds comprising the Garfield Park Little League team known as The Newcomers have been shocking experienced teams with money for travel and equipment and who take winning for granted year after year. When The Newcomers take the field, they play to win!
Shawn Walker, one of the coaches of The Newcomers, sums it up simply: “This team has character and that is what we instill in our players. They have honor and integrity as young men. That’s more important than playing good baseball. But, it has power on the baseball diamond, too.”
Frank Brim, Administrator of First Round Baseball Academy and a Garfield Park Little League coach, says all the adults working with the players emphasize character and integrity as much as athletic skill. He says team members don’t curse or fight, are polite and respect adults and each other. “We are building successful men first, winning athletes second.”
But, The Newcomers are winners. They stormed through the Urban Initiative Jamboree sponsored by Major League Baseball at Mount Vernon Park in Chicago and came home the Illinois State Champions, surprising everyone but themselves.
They beat the Jackie Robinson champions at Horner Park, won on the road in Joliet and Indianapolis.
Shawn Walker says the Garfield Park Little League Program struggles each year for lack of money for travel, insurance, equipment, and fees. It could use some help. The program serves a total of 250 youngsters ages 5-16 every year. They practice and play on the diamonds at Jackson Boulevard between Hamlin & Central Park. T-Ball (5-8 year olds) play at 10:00 AM each Saturday. The Majors (11 & 12 year olds) play at 12 Noon each Saturday. At 3:30 PM, the Minors (9 & 10 year olds) take the field. Coaches and a few parents cheer the teams on and sell refreshments to raise money.