Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

BUILDING SKILLS BEYOND BASEBALL; Group Also Aims to Give Teen Boys Spiritual, Practical Guidance

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

BUILDING SKILLS BEYOND BASEBALL; Group Also Aims to Give Teen Boys Spiritual, Practical Guidance

Article excerpt

Byline: HEATHER FUREY

Most baseball coaches teach their players to steal second base, throw a curveball and catch a fly ball in the outfield, but Faith Field Ministries is using baseball to teach something they feel is of greater value.

"It teaches my son and these kids it's always the right time to do the right thing," said Tom Weldon, a parent involved in Faith Field Baseball Ministries. "I know baseball is a huge thing when you use it to share the love of Christ."

Faith Field Baseball Ministries is a non-profit organization designed to use baseball as a platform to reach teenage boys in Jacksonville. The program provides kids who love to play baseball the opportunity to participate in a league without financial obligations. And team members also develop their character and leadership skills by conducting baseball clinics for children who don't have the resources to play ball.

"Players are being burnt out playing year-round," said Michael Farah, the founder of Faith Field Ministries. "There should be a balance in the kids' life. Something is wrong when it isn't fun anymore, and something needs to change."

Farah started the organization in November 2007 because he loved baseball, but he also wanted to affect kids' lives spiritually to get them ready for everyday life. He named it after a baseball field next to a parking lot at Murray Hill Baptist Church where he learned about Jesus and playing baseball as a kid.

Alongside head coach Steve Adams, Farah formed a team to compete against various schools in Jacksonville. Normally it costs a travel ball player at least $2,000 to $3,000 to play, and 70 percent of the children quit playing competitive ball by the time they reach the age of 13 because they don't feel they are good enough to play anymore, Farah said. But he wanted to make sure nothing stops kids from playing a sport they love.

"The fact is they are good enough, but they haven't reached their potential," he said.

The team isn't part of an official league in Jacksonville. Instead they ask schools in the area if they can compete against them. The Faith Field team has played against Nease, Episcopal and Fleming Island high schools, Adams said, but the most meaningful experiences for the players have been conducting free clinics for kids.

"I like Faith Field because it is about our faith, and we get to spread the word of the gospel," said Austin Weldon, 17, who just graduated from Ed White High School and has been playing baseball for 11 years. "I have never had the time to help kids out, and it's been what I have always wanted to do. I am glad I get to share and teach kids how to play."

For the clinics, the Faith Field players collect baseballs, bats, mitts and any type of equipment to take to the kids. They also form teams, teach them to play baseball and help them learn about faith by giving out New Testaments and talking about God. …

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