Varsity baseball outfielder John Sheridan '13 was just an 18-year-old playing baseball in Hawaii when he first thought of starting a baseball mentoring program. With support from the Swearer Center for Public Service and local organizations, that became a reality this past summer.
Along with team members and players from rival teams in the area, Sheridan hosted a free 10-day summer baseball camp and mentoring program for inner-city Providence youth.
"I wanted to give college advising and a competitive baseball experience all at no cost to families," Sheridan said. "Providing a meaningful message was at the core of the program, because for a lot of these kids college baseball is not a reality, but I wanted to make college a reality."
The program, named the Baseball Academy for Sustaining Education and Sport, provided 43 young baseball players with specialized instruction from 15 college athletes.
To aid in recruiting young baseball players to participate in the camp, Sheridan enlisted the help of Providence Sports and Leadership, a local organization that gives over 150 teenagers the chance to play baseball while developing leadership skills.
"We took our kids and told parents that this is a great opportunity to play baseball and get exposed to college," said Bill Flaherty, executive director of PSL. Flaherty said once he introduced Sheridan to the families, they were immediately eager to join the program.
"I continue to look forward to exposing kids in inner city Providence to the caliber of athletes and students that John was exposing them to," Flaherty said.
The program was split into two parts. The first focused on honing specific skills related to each player's position, which was then followed by developing the campers' hitting abilities.
The participating mentees will continue the program into the fall. Beginning in October, each athlete will be paired with two campers, meeting twice a month to build upon each mentee's athletic and academic goals.
"Recruiting guys from the team to participate in the program was pretty easy. They were all really interested in giving back," Sheridan said. "I wanted to show that the mentors can be just as involved as the kids."
The BASES program was funded by a Royce Fellowship for Sport and Society, one of the Swearer Center's primary grants financing research for the public good and athletes pursuing projects in sports and development. Kerrissa Heffernan, the director of faculty engagement and the Royce Fellowship, explained that the award is quite competitive, receiving approximately 70 general applications each year, of which only five or six are used to fund sports-related projects.
"The purpose of the Royce is articulating the intersection of academic interests, sports interests, and proposing some sort of project or research plan that ties the two together," Heffernan said. "John has a terrific idealism with his great work ethic. He is a very good baseball player, which made kids in the community want to hang out with him."
"He really did his homework," she added.
What immediately appealed to the fellowship's selection committee was Sheridan's desire to host the program locally in Providence, Heffernan said. Its focus on the city's youth was a contrast to many applicants' plans to work abroad in developing nations.
On the final day of the program, the whole camp went to see a Pawtucket Red Sox game as a culminating experience. During the game, Sheridan said one of the relatively quieter campers came up to him, looked him in the eye and shook his hand.
"He told me he really just wanted to thank me for the program and everything it was about. He said now he was ready to do whatever it takes to go to college," Sheridan said.
"That moment, I was just like, 'yes, that's what this was all for.'"