07/23/04 — Jackie Robinson League completes first season

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Jackie Robinson League completes first season

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in News on July 23, 2004 1:56 PM

More than 100 people gathered Thursday at the Dillard Alumni Center to celebrate the end of a season and the beginning of a dream.

It was a banquet marking the end of Goldsboro's first season of the Jackie Robinson League.

The league, first envisioned by Mayor Al King and Richard "Rooster" Narron, is bringing baseball back to inner-city kids.

"We have succeeded beyond my expectations," said King. "The fact that I'm standing here looking at all these kids tells me that we're going to have a tremendous Jackie Robinson League in Goldsboro for years to come."

Garry Phifer, president of the league, said that 95 youth participated in this year's program.

"Instead of losing kids, we picked kids up over the summer," he said. "Some grandparents had their kids come for a long visit over the summer and they joined."

King said that a conversation he had with one of the younger ball players epitomized the spirit of the league.

"I asked him if he could hit and he told me, 'not too good,'" King said. "Then I asked him if he could throw, and he said 'not too good.'"

King said he then reassured the young ball player, telling him that he would get better "year after year."

"I'm going to get better week after week," the young boy emphatically replied.

Phifer said the league was getting some attention outside of Goldsboro, and that he had some sponsors from Raleigh commit for next year's program.

Both King and Phifer praised volunteers and parents for their support.

"I knew the kids had the desire to do it, but I wondered about the involvement of the parents and leaders," King said. "But you stepped up to the plate."

All the kids received trophies, the sponsors received plaques and volunteers received certificates of appreciation.

King was given a commemorative statute of Jackie Robinson.

"Without him this wouldn't have happened," Phifer said. "He's the visionary and he came to all the games."