Education: A new ball game

Breaking down barriers to education, students peruse lines of books strung up between two trees in a shaded field at the Farm Labor Homes Friday morning minutes before a group of Walla Walla Sweets baseball players arrive to talk with them.

Breaking down barriers to education, students peruse lines of books strung up between two trees in a shaded field at the Farm Labor Homes Friday morning minutes before a group of Walla Walla Sweets baseball players arrive to talk with them. Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.

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Walla Walla Sweets' outfielder Alex Bonczyk signs books for a group of students at the Farm Labor homes summer program on Friday morning. Bonczyk and a group of other Sweets' players and staff visited the students to talk about baseball, reading and the importance of education in what they do.

— Children of the Walla Walla Farm Labor Homes summer program welcomed special guests Friday.

Members of the Walla Walla Sweets baseball team arrived at the camp to meet with the children served by the summer camp, sign autographs, read books, and even play a quick baseball game.

The visit marked the third year of the partnership between the Farm Labor Homes summer program, run by Children's Home Society, and the Sweets. Mariela Rosas, site director of the Farm Labor Homes program and mentor coordinator for Children's Home Society, said the partnership was launched by former Sweets community relations manager Beth Swanson. Rosas said Swanson reached out to her two years ago and offered to bring the players to the Farm Labor Homes. A new tradition was born.

Rosas said the partnership has improved with time. This summer, the Sweets visit coincided with a reading program at the camp, where each child received a free book. Players were then on hand to sign autographs in the books.

Rosas said after the book event, the children and players had the chance to play a baseball game together. Whitman College student Dakota Matherly, who plays on the Whitman baseball team and volunteers at the camp, has been teaching the children about the game and running daily practices, Rosas said.

"The Sweets were very impressed how well our children play," she said.

The Sweets visit is now a popular tradition at the camp.

"The children enjoyed so much the game they played with the Sweets and all the autographs they got. It was a great day for both," she said.

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