It’s hard to believe that six years have passed since Patricia Nobles James started on a journey of faith to keep baseball pumping for Durham’s inner-city young adults.
James took on the role when Durham Parks & Recreation eliminated its baseball league for ages 13 and up. (The Durham Bulls Youth Athletic League provides competitive baseball for ages 5-12.)
Despite short notice that the league was folding, James, along with volunteers and supporters, founded their own city league to keep the teenagers busy during the summer months.
Eventually, she met up with the president of Minor Baseball League who was looking for a host city to try out its new Longball program. MiLB wanted to take the sport into the inner cities to provide not only athletics but life skills as well.
With MiLB’s controlling ownership of the Durham Athletic Park, Longball played most of its games at the stadium for an even better baseball experience.
The marriage became rocky when MiLB gave up ownership of the park and moved out of Durham, but the relationship has held up.
The league is still invested in the program, and James has picked up other sponsors/investors along the way to keep it afloat. Not to mention several personal accolades for her and her all-volunteer staff for their hard work and dedication.
Longball is now called Long Ball Program – Durham Triple Play after several Duke students assisted to make it a 501(c)3 organization.
Nothing gets corporate America’s attention like a tax write-off.
USA Baseball has committed to provide all the game baseballs this season. The Toronto Blue Jays sent James four boxes of baseball pants.
Duke Baseball invited the staff to its recent banquet to introduce Longball as one of its partner programs.
Major League Baseball awarded the program an $11,000 grant, as did the CBC/WRAL Community Fund of Triangle Community Foundation.
Those funds will allow Longball to pay the umpires and provide uniforms for its new softball league. Yep, that’s right. Longball will expand this year to add a 13- to 15-year-old girls league.
“Our goal is to have at least four teams and take the top 15 players from the combined teams to the regionals in Maryland in July,” James said. “We will be taking the two baseball teams as well, and all of them will be the Durham Bulls and the Lady Durham Bulls, as we want everyone to know what city we are representing.”
James and staff are busy making the rounds at local middle and high schools to get the word out. And, of course, they will need volunteer coaches as well.
It has been some ride for the Longball program. Through the ups and downs, naysayers and haters, James, Vice President Myra Blackwell, Executive Vice President Wanda Daye and others kept the faith.
“I am super excited and truly humbled as I travel the path God has for me,” James said. “It has to be His will because everything continues to fall in place.”
Long Ball key dates
- April 25, 11 a.m. – baseball tryouts, Hillside Park
- May 3, 3:30 p.m. – softball tryouts, DAP; and MLB Pitch Hit Run local competition for girls and boys ages 7-14
- June 2, 6 p.m. – opening day at the DAP, 100 Men in Black will sing the National Anthem
Long Ball key dates:
• April 25, 11 a.m.: baseball tryouts, Hillside Park
• May 3, 3:30 p.m.: softball tryouts, DAP; and MLB Pitch Hit Run local competition for girls and boys ages 7-14
• June 2, 6 p.m.: opening day at the DAP, 100 Men in Black will sing National Anthem