Volunteers of the Eden Prairie Baseball Association have a simple yet beautiful mission: to share their love for their favorite sport with the youths of this great city. The day that one of their alumni signs with the Twins will be the happiest of their lives. But to coaches like Joe Petersen, baseball is about much more than just baseball.
“This sport is precious to me for a lot of reasons,” said the association’s vice president of community baseball. “It’s a traditional game: hard to get good at, but easy to get into. A ball and a glove are the only price of admission. Baseball also teaches kids teamwork, sportsmanship, and the importance of keeping their negative emotions in check. Resisting the urge to throw your helmet at the grass after you’ve struck out brings you one step closer to adulthood.
“More than anything, baseball builds relationships. Many kindergartners who start playing T-ball with us will make friends that they’ll continue playing with right up through senior year of high school – and probably even longer. If they’re in our travel league, which runs fourth through eighth grade, they’ll meet their peers all over the Twin Cities metro. We even encourage our more experienced players to come to our rookie camp, which will take place every Saturday this June, so they can practice their own coaching skills on eager preschoolers.
“Baseball forges camaraderie whether you’re losing or winning. I remember when my own son struck out for the first time in a tournament during his last turn at bat. He was being way too hard on himself about it, and was furious about letting that perfect streak slip through his fingers. My own fatherly advice wasn’t cheering him up as much as I’d hoped. But do you know what did? His teammates, who rallied behind him and reminded him of what a great job he had done.
“And it works both ways. We once watched in awe as one of our less skilled players snagged a fierce line drive out of midair just as easily as he would have picked an apple off a tree. The whole crowd erupted, with parents racing up to the bench and the whole team rushing out onto the field for celebratory high fives.
“Sharing moments like those makes me incredibly grateful to have joined this fine organization. I started coaching T-ball shortly after moving to Eden Prairie in part because I wanted to make my own friends as well. Now it’s rare for me not to run into the parent of a kid I coached at some point over the past five years. Volunteering also lets me enjoy my favorite sport all year long. Our season only lasts May and June and sometimes part of July, but our board meets every month to discuss how we can do even better for our kids and do even more for our community.
“Some people join the Eden Prairie Baseball Association because they want their son or daughter to have a great childhood. Others just want to make a huge, positive impact on kids’ lives. We welcome them all to come out and enjoy what we like to call the greatest show on dirt!”
"We once watched in awe as one of our less skilled players snagged a fierce line drive out of midair just as easily as he would have picked an apple off a tree."