By Rick Bryson

The sound of bats hitting balls and balls being caught in the gloves of enthusiastic players can be heard in the shadows of Nationals Park.  The teams generating these sounds of summer are not Nationals players, but the 15-and-under and 12-and-under teams of the RBI Wolfpack from Southwest.

The team is based in the King-Greenleaf Recreation Center area, and is coached by Ronald “Horse” Hines. This is the first year of the 15-and-under team, which recently played in the spring championship game for the wood bat league, finishing second.

“The guys really came together for the tournament and played exceptionally well,” Hines said. “Even though we  came in second place, the guys played like champions.”

The 15-and-under team is a travel team that played the majority of their games in Anne Arundel County. The team is funded in part through by the Southwest Youth Task Force.

“As a travel team, it requires a major commitment on the part of players, their families and the coaches,” Hines said. “It has proven to be a tremendous opportunity for our players to play against top competition from outside of D.C. Our players have represented the city well.”

He added, “Teams from other areas come into D.C. to play at our home field, Fort Greble Park, and are pleasantly surprised at the quality of our field.” Fort Greble ball park is at Martin Luther King Avenue and Chesapeake SW. It was made into  a high school size ball park a few years ago with a grant from Major League Baseball and the players’ association.

In the District, baseball has traditionally not been as popular as football and basketball, but is capturing the interest of many youth.

Coach Wes Davis, who has a son on the team, said, “Baseball is a sport that requires a lot of sacrifice and intelligence, and offers greater longevity than football or basketball. I’m pleased that the guys are gaining an appreciation for the sport.”

The team has already started summer league play of 20 games against 10 area teams, so the sounds of baseball will continue to be heard, and not just from Nationals Park.