KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In the months immediately following the 2015 Royals World Series victory, plans for the Urban Youth Academy were visualized and funded.
Now the UYA is the crown jewel of Kansas City baseball, training kids in baseball, softball, life skills, and character development.
After only three years of operation, the Urban Youth Academy is nurturing dreams and changing lives.
When representatives from Major League Baseball and the Kansas City Royals gathered in a dusty field and inaugurated what is now one of the best youth baseball and softball facilities in the country, they dreamed of using the baseball for bigger things.
Darwin Pennye quit a job as a sports director and coach at a high school in Houston to put his heart into putting that dream into motion.
âIf we only teach baseball and softball, we missed it. It is about life.
Today, high vision has descended on the four virgin fields in the heart of the urban core. Philosophies learned on and around the fields are now growing in the minds and bodies of children who play UYA.
Jared Fulghem first walked through the doors of UYA while still in high school. He loved the game but was discouraged by his prospects of playing.
âI tried my second year, my junior and my senior year. I was cut all three times, âFulghem said.
After training at the Urban Youth Academy, Fulghem got a college scholarship to play catcher at Baker University. He now lives with the wisdom that failure can be a way to be successful.
Fulghem’s smile is wide and contagious. “It just gives me hope and makes me believe in myself and my skills that a person may not want me, but there is always someone looking for me.”
CL Stacker, who signed with Kansas Christian College, is a UYA success story that almost wasn’t.
âIt was August 13th. We were here around 9 am, âStacker said. âAfter I signed up, it was about 30 minutes later, I was in an intensive care room. I had just been shot twice while defending my sister.
His gunshot wounds show just how close Stacker is to a career-ending injury. The bullet narrowly missed his vital organs, but the experience left him bitter and vindictive.
Stacker says he could have ended up in jail or in a gang without his mentor. The man he effectively calls “DP”, the executive director of the Urban Youth Academy.
âMeeting Darwin has helped me excel at the next level. Not only with baseball, but also with developing another relationship, âStacker said. âTo make my relationship with God stronger, to read more about the Bible and to understand things. “
This weekend, high school baseball players from across the country are at Urban Youth Academy to showcase their skills to college coaches and major league scouts.
âWe can get carried away by the scholarships and the signings and everything, but there’s a bigger focus in there,â Pennye said. âIt’s important for us to make sure these kids are equipped and ready to face life, because at some point they ask you to put your uniform back on. “
That’s precisely why Pennye is here at one of the best training grounds in the Midwest, where they use a child’s simple love for play on a much bigger project.
âLife is not all about baseball, but baseball is about life,â smiles Pennye.
If you want to know more about the Urban Youth Academy programs, which are free and accessible to all, consult them online.
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