HARRISONBURG, Va. - James Madison baseball and softball hit the playing fields for a different purpose on Monday, setting aside time to play with first graders from Waterman elementary school at Veterans Memorial Park.
This is the third consecutive year that the first grade classes have come to play. The student-athletes teach them the basics and share their experiences with the game.
"This is about the same age that I fell in love with the sport. It is so special to have the chance to inspire these kids," said Heather Kiefer, a sophomore on JMU softball.
About 95 first grade students were in attendance this year. Mr. Swartz, a teacher at Waterman, thought of the idea while teaching a former baseball coach's son.
“JMU is part of the community that we talk about a lot but some kids never get to see it in person. Today shows them to keep working hard and they can make it to college one day too,” said Swartz.
The students rotated through stations with both teams learning different aspects of the game. The most important lesson for all involved was to have fun.
“The best part of today is the chance to give back. There are no wins or loses, just fun. The kids are doing things they may have never done before while getting cheered on by their peers. It really is a great thing to see,” said Ted White, assistant coach for JMU baseball.
“It is important to be involved with the community and for them to be involved with us. These kids have a ton of energy and it’s great to see,” added Mickey Dean, head coach for JMU softball.
“It reminds us that we are more than just baseball players. We get to make a kids day and have fun too,” commented Matt Tenaglia, a redshirt junior for JMU baseball.