05/11/04 — Jackie Robinson clinic gets young people started

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Jackie Robinson clinic gets young people started

By Barbara Arntsen
Published in Sports on May 11, 2004 1:58 PM

Five-year-old Terence Sutton struggled to put on a baseball glove, as kids lined up eagerly behind him, waiting for their turn.

Like Terence, many of the kids gathered at Fairview Park had never thrown a baseball, much less put on a glove.

But that is changing with the newly formed Jackie Robinson League, aimed at developing baseball skills for inner-city youth.

Friday night was the first of several pre-season clinics, held to prepare the kids for their first season.

"Tonight we're here to go over fundamentals, and help the kids understand the rules," said Garry Phifer. "Most of these kids haven't ever played before. Some will be raw talent, but it's all about the fun."

Phifer is in charge of the program.

Rooster Narron, a Goldsboro businessman and former professional baseball player, began talking with Mayor Al King almost a year ago about starting a league. The two were concerned about how Goldsboro was losing baseball talent from the black community.

Narron said that traditionally Goldsboro has had great baseball, but that it had deteriorated to the point where young people didn't have an opportunity to develop their skills.

When Coach Charles Lane, Garry Phifer and Gene Thomas heard about the plans for an inner-city league, they offered their help.

Response to the league has been great, Phifer said, with sponsorships from a variety of fraternal organizations, churches, and a few businesses.

A number of people have also stepped forward to help coach the teams, which is a good thing since there are 110 kids signed up for the league.

"I used to play softball when I was younger," said Airman Stephanie Finch. "There's really not much for kids to do in Goldsboro, so I wanted to help."

Phifer said the Goldsboro Jackie Robinson League baseball and softball programs would provide its young players with the opportunity to learn and play quality baseball while developing respect for their coaches, their teammates and opponents and -- most important -- for themselves.

Both King and Narron say it's essential for baseball players to begin playing the game at an early age.

"It's easier to develop basketball and football skills later on," King said, "but baseball needs to be started young."

Narron says that by the time a youngster reaches 13 or 14, it's much more difficult to teach baseball skills.

The season will open in three-and-a-half weeks, and Phifer says they'll be ready.