Selma Youth get trip to Atlanta

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 14, 2002

A bat, a ball, a little popcorn, the organ playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” and the count three and two. It doesn’t get much better than that.

At least not when you’re 10 years old. Not when your heroes still wear uniforms with numbers on the back and have nicknames like “Chipper.”

A lot of kids, though, have never seen a major league baseball game in person, never heard the crack of the bat or the roar of the crowd.

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That’s why Frank Hardy is so excited about this Saturday. He’ll be taking a busload of future major leaguers from the Selma Youth Development Center and heading out to Atlanta’s Turner Field to watch the Braves take on the Boston Red Sox.

“For a lot of these kids this will be their first outing to a major league ballgame,” said Hardy, the center’s director. “We’ll pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it. It’ll be like a family outing, only we’ll have a very, very large family.”

Tickets for the outing are being provided by the Braves through their community outreach program.

This is the second year the center has benefited from the program.

Said Hardy, “Last year we sort of formed a relationship with the Braves team, and they liked what we’re trying to do over here. We’re excited to be returning to Turner Field. It’s a tremendous place to see a game.”

The center was founded in 1989. Hardy estimates that the center provides a place for 85 to 100 children and teen-agers to go each day after school and during the summer months, a place that keeps them off the street and out of mischief. It offers a wide range of activities, from boxing classes to dance and art classes to classes on homework and computer skills.

During the summer months it also runs a series of day camps.

“If we do nothing else here,” Hardy said, “we help to instill a sense of importance in these kids. And when a kid feels important, then it’s highly less likely he’s going to get involved in some of your more undesirable activities.”

Hardy’s philosophy that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is not new, of course. But then there aren’t many new fundamentals, whether it’s baseball or raising a kid who has a healthy self-esteem. In baseball, it all comes down to hitting and fielding. In dealing with children, it all comes down to taking the time to care.

“These kids need to know they’re loved and that they’re special,” Hardy said. “It goes a long way with them toward building their self-esteem when adults are willing to spend time with them and to get involved with them. It goes a long, long way.”

And here’s another fundamental: You can’t reach out to help a kid without also helping yourself.

“We’re always looking for volunteers out here,” affirmed Hardy. “When people come out and volunteer it helps the kids, that’s a given. But that’s not all. When people come out and give a little of their time, they always receive a lot more than they give.

“It always does more for the giver than for the receiver.”

That’s fundamental. Just ask Frank Hardy.