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Congressional Baseball Is More Than a Game | Commentary

In the three years I’ve pitched in the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game, I’ve put these numbers up: 1.7 ERA, 34 K’s, 10 hits allowed, and a WHIP of 0.8571 in 21 innings pitched. These are numbers I am looking to improve upon in this year’s contest.

Since my first game in 2011, I have been able to have a significant impact on the game not only from the mound, but from the plate as well, hitting a .818 average.

Baseball was a passion of mine long before I reached the halls of Congress. As captain of my high school team and an ambitious outfielder at Morehouse College, I’ve been a contributor on winning teams for years. Now, I use my knowledge of the game for more than striking out my GOP colleagues. I make it a point to volunteer my time to teach the game to kids whenever I am back home in New Orleans.

Before I ever considered public life, coaching baseball at the same park where I learned the game was how I spent much of my time. I learned a lot about myself from the game, but I also learned from those who taught it to me. Many of the young children in New Orleans grow up without the benefit of positive role models, an issue that prompted me to run for the state Legislature and one I still combat today as a United States congressman.

In Louisiana, the black student graduation rate is 65 percent, a 13 percent gap as compared to white students. This is a staggering statistic that perpetuates the problem of increased crime and poverty among the black community. According to statistics, 75 percent of crimes are committed by high school dropouts and 60 percent of black male dropouts have spent time in prison.

The National Dropout Prevention Center/Network touts the effectiveness of mentor relationships on young people with very persuasive data. “Regardless of the format, structure, or institutional host of the program, mentoring is a community development program. Mentoring changes the structure and institutional boundaries of the community and the vision of the mentee. It serves as a powerful human force in a school, community, or state that can change the vision, health, or the economic base of the community.” Fifty-two percent of students skipped less school, 48 percent improved their grades and 47 percent of students got into less trouble out of school.

There is a necessity for real role models in our communities. I know I needed one, and even more than one, in fact. As a freshman at Morehouse, and as a law student at Tulane, there were people there for me. Whether it was upperclassmen taking me under their wing or alumni helping me avoid some of the pitfalls in higher education, I wouldn’t be here today without every one of them. I have taken those experiences and applied them as a congressman, co-sponsoring the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education Act. This legislation would provide communities with the data and resources they need to support at-risk youth and offer them the same opportunities I was afforded growing up.

In this year’s game, I will wear an Urban Youth Academy jersey to highlight the significance youth baseball in inner cities had on my life and the role it can continue to play for youth all across the country. Organizations such as the Urban Youth Academy, the Boys & Girls Clubs and the Washington Nationals Dream Foundation do fantastic work to enrich youth and champion a cause that pays dividends. It is a pleasure to have the opportunity to benefit such great causes while playing a game I love.

When I am on the mound, my opponent will not be the only thing I think about. All I had to overcome to reach the point I am now and all the work that is left to do to allow those like me to follow in my footsteps runs through my mind as I read the signal from the catcher. When the pitch leaves my hand, all of my hard work and determination goes with it. More times than not, the challengers swing and miss.

Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-La., is a former MVP of the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.

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