Nationals youth academy opens inaugural summer session

WASHINGTON – As the sun beats down on the gated baseball diamonds inside the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy, half the campers are outside honing their hitting skills, while the other half are inside defining the acronym S.T.E.M.

Science, technology, engineering and math will dominate their summer curriculum.

This is not just a sports camp, but rather a vehicle to accelerate learning among children in D.C. Wards 7 and 8, which are east of the Anacostia River, says executive director Tal Alter.

“Baseball is tied into what we do. I mean, you look around and there are baseball fields everywhere, baseball imagery and themes in classroom and curriculum, but we are working on enriching academic performance in English language arts and S.T.E.M.,” Alter says.

In an office filled with water bottles, Washington Nationals hats and backpacks and enrollment forms, it’s easy to tell it’s the first day of the academy’s summer session. And while summer school would seem to be a tough sell to a 10-year-old, JaNia Jackson says she couldn’t wait to start.

“I’m learning how to pitch and throw the ball right, hit, and get to learn how to run faster,” Jackson says.

Reading, on the other hand, is not her favorite thing. But friend and classmate, Tameah Robertson says they spend a lot of time focusing on just that.

More than 100 children enrolled in the academy, which most students will attend as an after-school program during the school year.

“The idea is that we have a long term vision for the program. We’re working on building a community that will be here through many years,” Alter says.

The children will start the academy in third grade and will continue through 8th grade. They will spend about 100 days a year in the enrichment program.

The Washington Nationals along with Major League Baseball and D.C. government partnered to build a youth baseball facility that would give children a place to play ball but also give them a safe place to learn.

The facility, near Fort Dupont Park, opened in March.

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