As the gates opened, children ran into the newly renovated baseball field at Bethune Park in South Central Los Angeles for an evening of exercise activities. The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation hosted players from the Dodgers Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program for a fitness night in partnership with the Lakers Youth Foundation.
“The Dodgers Foundation and Lakers Youth Foundation have similar missions to serve the underserved community, to provide resources and to give these kids opportunities to show their full potential, to show them what is possible beyond the circumstances and environment that they are in everyday,” remarked Kiesha Nix, Executive Director of the Lakers Youth Foundation and advisory board member for the Dodgers RBI..
Participants in the fitness night were put through a series of exercise drills led by former Dodger Mickey Hatcher and former Laker A.C. Green. Hatcher won a World Series title with the Dodgers in 1988 while Green helped the ’87 and ’88 Lakers win back-to-back NBA titles and currently holds the record for the most consecutive games played in NBA and ABA history.
“The Dodgers RBI program is able to reach so many communities and bring kids into an atmosphere where it’s kid friendly, all about positivity, love and health and wellness is the focus here,” said Green. “The most rewarding part is seeing the enthusiasm on these young faces.”
In its 2017 season, Dodgers RBI will serve over 7,800 players between the ages of 5-18, across 57 locations in greater Los Angeles County including six fitness nights co-hosted by the Lakers Youth Foundation.
“It’s not just about sports as people would think,” said Nichol Whiteman, executive director of the Dodgers Foundation. “The Dodgers are a baseball team, but without the education and the health components, sports doesn’t exist as it goes hand in hand.”
The motto of the Dodgers RBI program is It’s bigger than baseball. “There’s a sense of belonging, engagement and enjoyment that comes with this health and fitness clinic as well,” said Whiteman.
This is the case for seven-year-old Andrew Miras, who has been in the Dodgers RBI program for the past two years. His mother, Rosa Cruz, says her son wakes up early on days he knows that there is an RBI event anxiously awaiting to be reunited with his teammates and newfound friends.
“Usually kids get home, play video games and aren’t getting exercise,” said Cruz. “It’s a big benefit for him to get in a workout plus interact with all his teammates and friends.”
At the helm of both programs are two African-American women in Nix and Whiteman, who have made it their mission to give back and show their commitment to the community.
“As a parent you’re always looking for opportunities for your child and resources and it’s hard,” Nix commented. “You want something that is going to be convenient, safe and that will provide an opportunity.”
The Lakers and Dodgers partnership is just one example of how sports is “a universal language uniting people from different age and ethnic groups,” said Nix. Two of the most iconic brands have put their resources together to provide the inner city with vessels to encourage the youth of underserved communities.