By Ben Bograd
When Millburn Short Hills Youth Baseball changed its bat regulations, parents sighed in resignation. The rules meant new bats needed to be bought, while any bought the previous year would live a life collecting dust in a basement or garage.
Though bat shopping remains imminent, high school senior, Tyler Barishaw, came up with a plan for the ladder.
Barishaw decided to collect bats from around town; many where in mint condition, barely a year old. He donated 225 of them to DREAM, an organization that fosters a nurturing, positive environment for young children to play baseball and softball in East Harlem, the South Bronx and Newark.
According to Barishaw, “Sports offer the opportunity to make friendships and memories regardless of how good the team is or how many games the team wins.”
DREAM recognizes that baseball and softball serve a larger purpose, outside the foul lines of winning and losing. They use sport as a canvas for children to learn lessons of hard work, teamwork and resiliency. More so than most other sports, baseball is a game predicated on failure and one’s ability to cope with adversity. In
baseball, getting out is inevitable; the best players do not eliminate failure, they maximize their chances at success.
Jason Polanco, a baseball and softball coordinator for DREAM, emphasized the life lessons baseball helps him instill in the city’s youth.
“We try to push our youth to accept when failure occurs and understand that if you continue to work hard these failures will occur less frequently,” said Polanco.
Polanco also says he believes DREAM’s after-school programs help get young kids physically active and out of the house.
“Our communities have a high percentage of youth experiencing childhood obesity,” he says. “I feel that through sports it could provide youth an opportunity to increase their level of activity which in the long run can help prevent obesity or any other diseases affiliated with obesity.”
While DREAM has helped countless children through their sports programs, they are also committed to the academic success of their students. This past year, 100 percent of high school students in DREAM programs matriculated to the next grade, while many of its seniors are heading off to college in the coming fall. In East Harlem, the DREAM Charter School educates more than 600 students in
grades K-10. Since its opening in 2008, the school has been an unquestionable success, as its students outperform the average scores of other schools across the city and state in both math and English.
Donations like Barishaw’s allow DREAM’s programs and ambitions to grow, letting the organization help more students to realize their goals on and off the baseball diamond.
By Ben Bograd