- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2014


When they were crunching the numbers of the value of Major League Baseball in Washington, this wasn’t part of the formula — the connection and celebration of the good things and good people in the Washington metropolitan area.

You can’t quantify the emotional value to a community to have an institution like the Washington Nationals, from April through September and during the winter, reach out — connections that didn’t exist before baseball came to Washington in 2005.

Oh, the Baltimore Orioles would honor Washington occasionally with a clinic or some ceremony at Camden Yards that might include a District-area resident or two, but it was perfunctory — an obligation, not a commitment.

The Washington Nationals are committed to Washington. If you need evidence of that, just make a visit to the new youth baseball academy that just opened in southeast Washington.

Yes, much of that commitment comes with the obligation of owning a baseball team. It’s hardly all out of the goodness of the hearts of the Nationals owners.

That doesn’t diminish the value of that commitment to Washington people and other institutions — something that didn’t exist before baseball arrived here.

Whether obligatory or voluntary, Washington benefits from the community service of another sports franchise here — like the benefits of honoring three teachers at Nationals Park who should be recognized and celebrated for their commitments to children and the community.

Three teachers will be recognized Tuesday night at Nationals Park as team finalists in the “Target Presents PEOPLE All-Star Teachers” campaign.

The campaign celebrates current and retired teachers who make an impact on the lives of their students and communities — teachers like Sabrina Hayden, a Nationals fan who teaches at Randle Highlands Elementary School in the District.

Hayden founded the nonprofit First Impressions Enterprises, which focuses on girls mentoring, health education and providing opportunities to minority youth. She also wrote a grant for a program called Youth Ambassadors, which will help educate children about the harmful effects of tobacco, and she established a “Saturday School” called the Hayden Academy this past May.

“It’s great to have a baseball team in town now,” Hayden said. “I enjoy it, and the students enjoy it as well. They like baseball, and we are adding a program where the Nationals pick up students at the school to take them back to the stadium for training and education programs. It’s part of their educational partnerships.”

Hayden loves to help children see opportunities that might be available to them and how to reach out for those. “It’s a passion,” she said. “I work with all ages, helping them plan for long and short term goals.

“It’s a lifelong commitment,” Hayden said. “I am involved in a number of initiatives at Corinth Baptist Church. It’s a family church. My grandfather was the pastor there. We’re building an assisted living center. When I’m not working at the Hayden Academy, I’m working at the church.”

The school. The church. And now the baseball team — all part of the community.

Hayden is one of three teachers who will be honored Tuesday night at Nationals Park.

Chad Wright is a Nationals fan from Nokesville, Virginia, who has taught government for 10 years and has also taken students to the Capitol to see Congress in action. During the 2012 presidential election, Wright set up a mock election at the school, which drew the attention of local papers. In addition, he encourages his students to get involved in activities outside the classroom and asks each of his students to complete 10 hours of community service as part of his class requirements.

The other teacher is from Brooklyn, but Jessica Valoris is a Nationals fan who is being recognized for her work as a resource teacher who encourages students to be involved with mural painting, poetry and music production within their community.

One finalist will be picked from the three teachers to represent the Nationals in All-Star week activities during a pregame ceremony at the All-Star game. Fans have until June 29 to visit AllStarTeachers.com to vote.

These kind of programs take place all the time. Sometimes it is background noise at Nationals Park to see some sort of pregame ceremony where people are honored for their good works. But it is important to those people and the communities they serve. It is a stage where, however briefly, good people are rewarded. Before baseball arrived in Washington, there was no such stage.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com

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