ALBANY, GA (WALB) - After four Albany teens were arrested over the weekend in two vehicle theft incidents, residents in the community said there’s an urgent need for more recreational opportunities.
“Juveniles get in trouble because there’s nothing to do in Albany for our kids. There’s no programs,” said Kenneth Florence, resident and former director of the Gillespie Ball Park.
From kids on every base, to multiple coaches in the dugout and bleachers filled with fans, Florence feels things aren’t the same anymore.
“Coaches were in the police department and they came to the park and actually coached. So, just actually think a kid playing baseball and your coach is the police,” said Florence.
Florence said that for years, kids would run to the park to play on one of the 12 teams and each team would have at least three coaches.
All of those coaches were pastors, officers, judges or leaders in the community.
“They built a relationship with that officer and you don’t want to get in trouble and then you had something to do all the time because the coaches checked the grades,” said Florence.
Many coaches made house visits, but he claims none of that is the same because of the lack of participation from the community, less teams for kids to join and financial challenges for families.
“The coaches used to come together and all the kids play and the coaches pull out their pocket to pay for the uniforms, but those types of coaches — not no more,” said Florence.
Florence said parents used to pay only $35 for their children, but those prices have doubled. Now, he feels if leaders would step up, more kids would stay out of trouble and be active on a field.
“Parents who have four kids and not enough money to pay for them are not playing and stay home and play video games,” said Florence.
Florence, who still assists the coaches at the park, said only 12 kids have registered for four of the park’s teams.
Right now, they’re actively seeking help to sponsor more kids to play on the teams for the upcoming baseball season.