Little Earth Red Bears won the Minneapolis Park & Recreation
Board Youth Baseball League Championship this summer in the 10 Year
Old And Under division. In celebration of the team's success, Little
Earth of United Tribes (Little Earth) hosted an awards banquet on
Aug. 7 at the Little Earth Neighborhood Early Learning Center.
The event included a trophy presentation and the unveiling of
new team uniforms, which were designed and funded through a partnership
with the Indian Health Board. The uniforms and the Red Bears' team
name were created to honor Trinidad Flores, a 16-year-old Little
Earth resident who passed away this April due to complications from
a heart transplant.
"Trinidad was the heart and soul of a lot of the youth programming
we did," said Nathan Ratner, Little Earth's Volunteer Coordinator.
Representatives from the Minnesota Twins Baseball Club (the
Twins), another of the program's partners, were also on hand at
the event to distribute back-to-school backpacks to community youth.
Over the course of this season, the Twins have invited the team
to Target Field for a tour and offered the youth classes on the
intersections between science and baseball. Miguel Ramos, the Director
of Emerging Markets at the Twins, said that the organization is
excited to partner with Little Earth as part of their overall mission
to connect to diverse communities in Minnesota.
"Our goal is to be sure that all communities feel welcome at
Target Field and feel part of the Twins organization," said Ramos.
"We work closely with them, but not only to teach the kids baseball.
We want the kids to be successful and the community to be successful,
Little Earth Red Bears' success highlights the many positive benefits
the baseball program offers to both Little Earth youth and the community
"We provide youth with an opportunity to win. That seems like
a simple thing, but for a lot of the youth that participate in our
programming, it's a big deal because they don't get the opportunity
to win a lot in their lives or feel like they're winners," said
Nathan Ratner, Little Earth's Volunteer Coordinator. "Starting there
I think the positive effects of this program radiate out." The long-term
goal of the baseball program is to encourage youth to become high
school athletes, thereby motivating them to be successful academically.
"We believe sports teach them accountability but also a strong
work ethic," said Ratner. "Not that sports is going to take them
through a professional career, but that those same skills will carry
over and guide them for their entire lives."
Most importantly, Ratner feels that the program helps youth
to build strong and meaningful bonds with adults in the community.
Muck-wa and Rose-Marie Roberts, volunteer coaches and Little Earth
residents, are the cornerstones of the program, often working up
to 25 hours a week during the season.
"Having them as members of the community and as consistent,
positive influences does more good than sports or anything else
does," said Ratner. "They're amazing and they're always there for
who has been coaching for over two years, is motivated by the supportive
relationships she is able to build with the players. "I do it for
the kids, to let them know that there are adults who are willing
to take the next step and care about them," she said.
Muck-wa, who has seven years of coaching experience, seeks to
share the positive influence sports have had on his life with youth
in the community. "Ever since I was younger, I played sports. I
believe it kept me out of trouble, so that's why I do what I do
for the kids."
Youth at Little Earth enjoy the program because of the lively
environment created by coaches, staff, and their fellow players.
Players Jose Rodriguez, Victor Rodriguez, and Ernesto Rodriguez
highlighted their favorite things about baseball, including batting
"My favorite thing is just being out there and participating,"
said player Sequoi Bryant. "It's a fun way to get exercise."
This year, 46 youth participated consistently in the four divisions
of Little Earth's baseball program. Youth of any gender between
8-18 years old are eligible to participate. Although the program's
first priority is to serve youth in Little Earth's community, enrollment
is open to all. This winter, Little Earth plans to continue its
youth basketball program, which is also open to 8-18 year old youth.
Within the next year, Little Earth also plans to begin lacrosse
and soccer programs. For more information about these programs or
to enroll a youth player, contact Ratner via phone at 612-455-2813
or via email at Nathan.Ratner@learth.org.