Editor’s note: Peter Brooks is a junior journalism student at Mount Mercy University.
CEDAR RAPIDS — When the flood of 2010 destroyed several youth baseball fields, former Cedar Rapids Kernels general manager Jack Roeder wanted them rebuilt.
He turned to the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, received a grant and did just that.
The intent was to create a new youth baseball field and remodel an existing high school size field to a youth field. The other goal was to develop a little league program for second- and third-grade kids living in the flood impacted areas on the west side of town. The program evolved to other areas within the Cedar Rapids community and became known as the Al Smith League of Dreams. Smith was a longtime Kernels board member.
The league is free and consists of 125 kids who are playing for their respective school. But, league coordinator Marcia Moran said, they don’t turn any children away.
“We offer it to several schools,” she said. “If only one kid signs up (from a particular school), we put them with another team. We have a child playing from Harrison on the Van Buren and Cleveland team.”
The idea of the League of Dreams was to introduce kids to the game of baseball who might not otherwise get a chance. It is non-competitive and preaches fundamentals, sportsmanship and the importance of having an active lifestyle.
Josh Reed has a son in the league who likely wouldn’t be playing baseball without the program.
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“I’m happy we are involved,” Reed said. “It’s got him interested in baseball and (he) wants to play catch at home.”
Each team played a six-game schedule that ended in June. Schools on the west side played at Jones Park while east side schools played at Coe College’s softball field.
An all-star game was held June 30 at Veterans Memorial Stadium, which was open to all players. They got to play in right field and saw their names displayed on the Jumbo-Tron. All the spectators were treated to free food and a drink.