Special youth baseball league teaching incarcerated young men a valuable lesson

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The concept of playing organized sports to build character in youth is being played out at summer sports leagues across the city, but nowhere is this idea more relevant than with the Illinois Youth Corrections Chicago Sox of the Lost Boyz baseball league.

The concept of playing organized sports to build character in youth is being played out at summer sports leagues across the city, but nowhere is this idea more relevant than with the Illinois Youth Corrections Chicago Sox of the Lost Boyz baseball league.

Sports is a big part of the programming at many youth detention facilities, and fielding teams is not unusual. The unique thing about IYCC Sox is that they travel outside of the facility to play games at parks around the city and that the chosen game is baseball–a sport almost foreign to many of the young men housed at the medium security facility at 136 N. Western Ave. on the West Side.

“One of the reasons why I chose to do baseball is because I wanted to teach the young men something different,” said Asst. Superintendent Nikki Robinson. “They were used to basketball and streetball so I really wanted to take them out of their element.”

Robinson, along with Lost Boyz president, LaVonte Stewart, began formulating the plan to build the team just a few months ago. It was a bit of a stretch primarily because of the safety issues but also because of funding. It was daunting to begin with, but Robinson, a spiritual person, left it up to a higher power.

“Honestly I started praying about it. I just asked God to give me what he needed to give me to make it happen,” Robinson said. “Somebody has to take a chance on these kids. Somebody’s got to be willing to invest something in them in order for them to know that they care.”

And fortunately there were people willing to invest both time and money. The league fees were paid by local businessman Dennis Morrison, and the equipment – bats, balls, gloves and uniforms – were either provided by the Lost Boyz or donated by staff at the facility.

Sox head coach Sam Nicholson is on staff at the facility, and he jumped at the chance to be a part of the team. He played baseball as a youth on the West Side and through college. He wanted to share his enthusiasm for the sport and at the same time support the correctional facilities programming.

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