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Prince Harry Plays Ball with Harlem RBI

Prince Harry at the batting cage of Harlem RBI's Field of Dreams. Credit: Matt Zeigler

Prince Harry at the batting cage of Harlem RBI’s Field of Dreams. Credit: Matt Zeigler

Prince Henry of Wales began his visit at Harlem RBI in a closed session with a small group of Harlem RBI alumni. Ondrae Jackson, Juliet Mercado, Robert Saltares, Justina Sharrock, Albert Tirado and Luigi Vasquez shared with Prince Harry
their experiences as coaches in East Harlem. Prince Harry in turn shared that many areas in the United Kingdom resemble East Harlem, and how a program like Harlem RBI would be a benefit back home.  Justina Sharrock, Culture Coordinator for Harlem RBI’s REAL Kids program said, “Prince Harry is building coaching programs in the U.K, so he wanted to understand our experience and learn from us. His visit was not a PR stunt. He genuinely listened and asked what drew us to Harlem RBI and what kept us involved even after high school graduation.”

Prince Harry then visited Harlem RBI’s Field of Dreams, teeming with students from Harlem RBI’s DREAM Charter School, where he participated in baseball drills. The drills were run by Harlem RBI’s 2013 seniors, who will collectively boast a 100% high school graduation rate this June. Prince Harry took some tips from the youth as well as New York Yankee first baseman and Harlem RBI Board member, Mark Teixeira.  Prince Harry practiced catching grounders and fly balls and even had a turn at the batting cages.  As Teixeira and Prince Harry neared home plate, Teixeira could not resist the opportunity to throw His Royal Highness a pitch. With DREAM Charter School student Dolly Diaz as catcher, the Prince hit a line drive to right field. “He never played baseball before,” said Teixeira. “Obviously he’s a natural.”
Harlem RBI Executive Director Rich Berlin said, “From now on he will forever be known as “Prince Harry of Harlem.”
Yesterday’s festivities launched Project Coach, a multi-year continuum of coaching opportunities for youth beginning at the age of 13 and extending through college graduation. The project is a partnership between Harlem RBI and The Royal
Foundation of the Duke and Duchess or Cambridge and Prince Harry and will be funded in part by the American Friends of The Royal Foundation.This support will enable Harlem RBI to enhance the quality of the program’s coaching and training and increase the number of participants served by the program. The partnership will create greater continuity, quality and cohesion as the organization seeks to grow and develop leaders in East Harlem, the South Bronx and beyond. Berlin said, “We are thrilled to partner with The Royal Foundation on Project Coach. Coaching is at the core of Harlem RBI’s mission. At Harlem RBI, youth grow not only as baseball and softball players, but also as leaders on and off the field.”

Beginning at age 13 at Harlem RBI, youth mentor their younger peers during fitness activities, and as they grow in age and skill, they take on additional leadership roles, serving as assistant baseball coaches and working as full-time Coaching Fellows or part-time Learning Coaches in the classroom and on the field once they reach college. “These activities help youth develop the values and skills they need to achieve positive outcomes, including high school and college graduation, and to support younger participants who will one day become coaches themselves,” said Berlin. “I’m proud to say that I wasn’t always the Executive Director of Harlem RBI. I started at this organization, like many other staff people, as a coach.”

Last night at a fundraising event for the American Friends of the Royal Foundation, Harlem RBI alumnus Robert Saltares followed Prince Harry’s remarks with a speech on how his coach changed the direction of his life. “I had a Major League Attitude growing up. There was nothing anyone could tell me or teach me, not even my coach. My coach had every reason to give up on me. But he never did,” said Saltares. “Today, I am the Baseball Coordinator for Harlem RBI’s REAL Kids program and a full-time student at Lehman College. I’m majoring in Exercise Science and after I get my Bachelors Degree, I hope to get my Masters in Athletic Training. I know I wouldn’t be here, if it weren’t
for my coach.”

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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