GREEN BAY — Sports are meant to be played by everyone. It teaches life lessons while also keeping kids active. Those are among the many benefits.
One veteran's non-profit organization is doing everything they can to make sure today’s youth has an opportunity to play.
“We take anybody,” said Chris Braun. “If they can’t afford it, we’ll pay for it. We buy bats, helmets, bat bags, shoes, anything they need.”
An Air Force veteran started a non-profit organization called the Northeast Wisconsin Black Sheep six years ago. He was inspired by a famous Marine aircraft fighter squadron (VMF-214).
“(Colonel) Pappy Boyington, he took people from all different backgrounds and all different experience levels and he’s still the most decorated fighting unit to the day,” Braun said.
It's an organization that allows any kid with any skill level the opportunity to play baseball, but as it has grown, they now have volleyball and softball teams.
“I got into the Black Sheep when I got out of a team I didn’t really like as much and we came here and formed all the kids really don’t get to play as much and we bring them up and get better than most of the teams – or try to,” said Black Sheep baseball player Jayshaun Grabinski.
But the organization does more than just help the kids grow as ball players. They also mentor them, holding them to a military-like standard.
“Courage, respect, teamwork, common goal,” Braun said of what the organization instills on the kids. “We take kids from all different backgrounds so they have to work together. It’s to help make them better citizens when they come out.”
All of the players have to sign a code of conduct, and they’re held accountable 365 days a year. If they start to slip, they go in front of the disciplinary board. However, it’s not to be disciplined, it’s to help the kids where they need it.
“We help them with their homework, grades to pass school. We also get involved if they have some disciplinary problems,” Braun said.
“You’re a student-athlete –student first,” said Marine Corps veteran and board member Patrick Normoyle.”We expect you to maintain a certain average and we work as [a] committee to try and find them help and we got a number of tutors with the organization that will give them personalized tutoring.”
And just ask the players themselves, they say it has helped them immensely.
“I was a little troublemaker,” said Carson Saldana who has been playing baseball with the organization for six years. “I’m not going to lie. They’ve kept me in place through all the years.”
Watching the kids come in as black sheep and turning them into productive young adults is all the organization could ask for.
“When I first started out, a lot of the kids didn’t like each other and now they’re best buds,” said Navy Veteran and Black Sheep coach Troy Ness. “Later in life they’ll be able to help each other out and look back at what memories — I mean baseball is just a small part of that. Instilling those values to those kids is just huge.”