The Raleigh Boys Club: Helping bring baseball back to East Raleigh
Meet Rashad Herndon.
Rashad is the athletic director of the Raleigh Boys Club and his goal is to bring baseball back to his community.
The Boys club isn’t just where Rashad works, it’s where he grew up. In fact, as a child, his step-father was the club director and was instrumental in teaching him the game of baseball.
Rashad has since taken over that role and he’s looking to pass on that passion to the next generation of kids coming through the club.
“Baseball has been around at the club since I was a young boy growing up,” said Herndon, who over the past couple years has kickstarted ‘The Miracle League Baseball Program’ at the club. “Since I have been working here the biggest challenge has been gaining the interest of volunteers to help teach and coach these kids.”
The second biggest challenge?
“The field,” he says. “It is always a major challenge due to poor drainage and weeds that grow throughout the off-season.”
The Boys Club Baseball field located at 605 Raleigh Blvd. has seen better days. The basepaths are filled with weeds, the outfield grass has grown into the infield. The backstop net has rips throughout, allowing foul balls to travel into neighbor’s backyards. There aren’t plugs for any permanent bases and the scoreboard has tree limbs draped over it. Rashad however, lets us know it isn’t always this bad and assured us that he gets it playable before each season.
“I go out there and pick weeds by myself. It takes me about 2 weeks to really get it looking right. But you can’t have an infield with weeds all over it. Not on my watch,” he told us as we walked the grounds with him in early March.
Rashad admits that getting kids in his community excited about baseball isn’t easy, but it’s something he’s been focused on doing over the past few years.
“A lot of the kids here are really talented, but most of them focus on basketball and football because those are the sports they grew up playing and the ones they see on TV down here. But in the summer you’ve got to get outside and that’s why baseball is a great game.”
He’s done a lot to excite the club about baseball and introduce his kids to the game, including partnering with the Cal Ripken Foundation who has worked with him to get new bats, balls, gloves, and even a pitching machine.
“It’s helped. Now you get some of the kids coming out to hit a little bit. I’ll set up the pitching machine and they like that. But it’s mostly just me there teaching them so it’s been hard to grow the program into something bigger.”
As for what it would take to grow the program, Rashad certainly has ideas.
“Volunteers and fixing up this field,” he said without hesitation. “Baseball is tough because a lot of these kids have never played and you need to show them the fundamentals. When it’s just me out there, I can’t pitch, catch, and show them how to swing. Shoot, it’d be nice to just have people come out and have a catch with them. They’d love that.”
You don’t have to look far to see the impact Rashad and the baseball program have already had on the community, despite the obstacles.
Meet Preston Kennedy.
Preston is 14 years old and has big plans for his future in baseball.
“We started Preston out in T-ball. His dad played and we wanted to see how he liked it,” his mother Aundrea Harris Kennedy told us. “It was just natural to him. He was one of the younger boys out there, had just started, and he was hitting it further than most of them.”
As Preston grew, so did his love for baseball, and while there was no doubt he had the raw talent, his parents knew they needed to find a way for him to get more practice and coaching.
“We heard about the Boys Club and heard that it might be a place where he could go after school and work on his game. So we went up there, met Rashad, and signed him up.”
Preston started coming every day after school to work on his game with Rashad. The fact that most of the kids at the club weren’t that into baseball didn’t stop him. He’d show up, hit off the machine, or just set up the tee and work on his swing.
“He’d call me after school and tell me not to pick him up until after dark because he’d be working with Rashad,” said Aundrea. “That Club turned him from a kid that played baseball, into a baseball player.”
As Preston preps for high school, he is already turning heads on the diamond. Coaches have suggested he attend showcase camps, join travel teams, and he’s even been invited to play in a tournament in the Dominican Republic this June, something the Boys Club is helping make happen financially.
According to Preston, all of this was built on a foundation laid by Rashad and the Boys Club.
“I got my work ethic at the Boys Club,” Preston told us. “They allowed me to work on baseball as much as I wanted. My dad and Pooh (Rashad’s nickname) would work with me but if he was busy with other members, he always gave me access to the equipment and the field to work on my game. And I did that every day. You can’t be the best if you don’t work hard at whatever you do.”
Speaking to Preston and his parents, you can tell that they are extremely grateful for Rashad’s commitment to keeping baseball alive there even when interest had wained at times. However, to Rashad, there was never a question of letting baseball go. He was going to pass on his passion for the game to his community, and according to Preston, he’s done just that.
“I got my love for the game there,” said Preston. “I have played with kids that enjoyed the game and were really good, but they stopped playing as they got older because they didn’t feel the love and friendship they felt at the club. That’s huge in this game, in this community. We worked every day and enjoyed it because we were like a family.”
These people and these stories are what helped us make up our mind to go forward with the ‘MLB Raleigh’ campaign. We knew that whether or not the push to bring MLB to Raleigh was successful, there was a need for organizing the local baseball community and helping promote the game in every corner of our city.
We are currently focused on helping Rashad and the Raleigh Boy’s Club jumpstart their baseball program by committing our profits, partnering with professionals, and calling on you, the community, to help make that happen.
We’ll have more on this in the coming weeks, but bringing their baseball field back to life is step one.
We’ve partnered with West Raleigh Baseball Club, Eco-Turf, Stokes Lawn Care, and P&R Property Consulting, who are already underway revitalizing the field. We will have updates on that process as well as volunteer days where we’ll ask the community to come out and get their hands dirty for a few hours. We’ll also have volunteer group signups at our kickoff event on April 13th.
Want to help the Boy’s Club’s baseball program with a direct donation? Click here and make a difference. 100% of the money donated using this link goes to their “Miracle League Baseball Program.”