CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolinas Metro Reds hit the baseball diamond Saturday for Opening Day of the 2021 season.
"They're just having an absolute good time out there right now,” said Morris Madden, founder and president of Carolinas Metro Reds.
According to its website, the mission of the Carolinas Metro Reds is to serve disadvantaged youth, providing a safe opportunity to develop baseball skills, leveraging this to teach life skills and support academic progress. The program caters to kids ages 4 to 18, primarily on the west side of Charlotte.
Former Carolina Panther Al Wallace is involved in the organization as a coach, volunteer, and parent.
"It's not just baseball -- it's mentoring, it's life skills. It's, you know, financial literacy,” Wallace said. “It's so many things we're trying to teach these young men and young women as they grow up through sports and through competition and through comradery."
The Carolinas Metro Reds strives to eliminate the financial barriers and limited access that may keep kids in underserved areas from participating in baseball.
"Our main goal is to make sure that these kids get an opportunity to play baseball,” Madden said. “On top of that, we have an academic center here, so we want to try and prepare them for life."
The Carolinas Metro Reds didn’t get to have a season in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Saturday was the first day back on the field in two years for many of the players.
Madden said the program is growing. It had about 80 youth participants signed up last year and has about 200 this year.
WCNC Charlotte and its parent company Tegna provided grant money that helped pay for some new uniforms. Madden said the team is needing more sponsors to step up with more kids signing up to participate.
"We're not trying to make Major League Baseball players,” Madden said. “We're trying to make major league citizens."
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