Beyond the Bricks
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Beyond the Bricks

OKC Dodgers Rookie League Provides Fun and Opportunity on the Field

League formed in 2018 to help increase youth baseball participation in the OKC community

Dodgers mascots Brix and Brooklyn pose with OKC Dodgers Rookie League participants. Photo courtesy of OKC Dodgers.

The players on Katy White’s 10-and-under OKC Dodgers Rookie League baseball team rarely want practices or games to conclude.

Her team is made up of young students from a northwest Oklahoma City elementary school who have all enjoyed competing and learning about the sport of baseball together this spring — two of the key focuses of the OKC Dodgers Rookie League, now in its second season.

“Our team loves practicing and playing so much that they are usually upset when they come to an end,” said White, who volunteers as an OKC Dodgers Rookie League coach. “They get along great, so it’s fun to see them all interact with each other.”

White serves as the OKC Dodgers’ Director of Partner Services and also is in her first year coaching in the OKC Dodgers Rookie League.

The OKC Dodgers Rookie League formed in 2018 to help increase youth baseball participation in the community, as well as foster an environment that emphasizes leadership, teamwork and sportsmanship. The timing was in response to Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation canceling its baseball league in 2017 due to low participation.

The OKC Dodgers stepped in last year to provide resources to help reduce costs and make baseball accessible to more area youth. The OKC Dodgers provide jerseys, hats, belts and equipment for each team, including catcher’s gear, bases, bats and tees with the help of presenting partners Beacon Environmental Assistance Corporation and Academy Sports + Outdoors.

“I feel the Rookie League is important for OKC because it gives our youth another avenue to get involved in the game of baseball even if they have never played before,” said Nick Gates, Director of Corporate Partnerships for the OKC Dodgers and also a Rookie League coach. “With the league starting out as a beginner’s league it gives them the opportunity to start baseball at any age. It also gives the kids a chance to be a part of the Dodgers organization.”

More than 325 participants are taking part in the OKC Dodgers Rookie League this season, making up 25 different teams in four divisions to accommodate boys and girls in multiple skill levels and age groups. Teams compete in 4U T-ball, 6U T-ball, 8U coach pitch and 10U kid pitch and 42 of the Oklahoma City metro area’s 74 zip codes were represented in the inaugural year of the league in 2018.

More than 325 participants are taking part in the OKC Dodgers Rookie League during its second season. Photo courtesy of the OKC Dodgers.

The league has already experienced growth of more than 40 percent from its inaugural season in 2018 to 2019.

“What better place than here in Oklahoma City — the very heart of America — to develop a partnership that will make it possible to preserve and protect and breathe new life into the all-American pastime of baseball,” Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Director Douglas Kupper said. “We truly love having the Dodgers organization here and we greatly appreciate the OKC Dodgers’ support of our efforts to bring baseball to our youth.”

As a Rookie League coach, White said she is hoping to teach the fundamentals of baseball while also instilling valuable life characteristics such as teamwork, work ethic, communication, drive and determination.

“The Rookie League is such an important asset to Oklahoma City because it provides kids the opportunity to be involved in organized sports and gain the valuable lessons from being a part of a team,” White said. “Not only is it important for me as a OKC Dodgers employee to participate as a coach, but it has also impacted me greatly to see these kids mature and grow over the last couple of months. I hope that I am a positive role model for our team and am so grateful to have had the opportunity.”

In addition to several members of the OKC Dodgers front office staff participating in the OKC Dodgers Rookie League as coaches, dozens of staff members recently volunteered their time as part of Minor League Baseball Charities’ new field refurbishment initiative, “MiLB Project: Refresh” powered by ECHO Outdoor Power Equipment. In May, staff members helped improve the playing fields at Wheeler Park, which serves as the home of the Rookie League, by assisting with fencing improvements, pulling weeds, edging, painting and more at the facility located just southwest of downtown Oklahoma City.

The OKC Dodgers Baseball Foundation has helped provide scholarships for numerous Rookie League players affiliated with Oklahoma City Public Schools and the Latino Community Development Agency.

“We expect that the outcomes of greater engagement in youth baseball in our community will have lasting effects on our families,” OKC Dodgers President/General Manager Michael Byrnes said. “Coordinated activities for youth and engaged volunteers will lead to further passion, not just in baseball, but also building confidence and social skills in our community members that present itself in their academic life, personal life and social life.”

An OKC Dodgers Rookie League player receives instruction during practice. Photo courtesy of OKC Dodgers.

The Rookie League season began in early April and will run through mid-June due to some weather postponements this spring. Teams play and practice typically once per week.

Rookie League players will have the chance to take part in a pregame parade on the field prior to an OKC Dodgers game this season and will also have the chance to participate in the league’s closing ceremonies later this month during an exclusive award event at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The OKC Dodgers Rookie League also offers several other fun and unique activities throughout the season for players and coaches.

“My goals as a coach are to get the kids excited about the game of baseball while also learning the basics of the game,” Gates said. “It’s invaluable for them to understand at a young age that baseball takes a full team effort…it teaches them lessons that they will apply to their everyday lives.”

A registration event for the 2020 OKC Dodgers Rookie League season will be upcoming this fall. For more information about the youth league, please contact the OKC Dodgers at (405) 218–2182 or visit okcdodgers.com/rookieleague.

OKC DODGERS ROOKIE LEAGUE MISSION STATEMENT:

The OKC Dodgers Rookie League is committed to enriching the lives of our youth and fostering a love of the game. The league provides a developmental, fun and safe environment for the enjoyment of the game of baseball. The OKC Dodgers Rookie League intends to help youth to set and work towards common goals, and to build the citizens of tomorrow though character, leadership ability and confidence.

The OKC Dodgers Rookie League emphasizes four core values through P.L.A.Y.:

Participation

Leadership

Accessibility

Youth Education

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Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson

Communications Manager for the Oklahoma City Dodgers