Mentors return to teach baseball, grow mission

Mentors return to teach baseball, grow mission
Baseball camp participants listen to a story about a baseball great from Rev. Steve Goyer, Riverside Presbyterian Church. “It’s one of the things we do that we think matters, and it’s a way for us to get out into the community and bring them together in something that is fun,” said Goyer.
Jacob Svejkovsky

Jacob Svejkovsky

Jacob Svejkovsky, 23, of Riverside, knows what it means to have a good mentor and strives to be one. The Robert E. Lee High School graduate and employee at the Timuquana Country Club could be the oldest member of the 16-year-old RBI Camp held every summer in Murray Hill Park.

“My first year we had a counselor here who made an impact on me, he was so good, so patient, even though he was just 18 or 19 years old. He would teach us and not talk down to us,” said Svejkovsky. “When I was 13, I decided to be the kind of coach I wanted as a child.”

Now Svejkovsky makes time to teach the sport of baseball to more than 100 boys and girls in the sandlot baseball camp.

RBI, which stands for Reviving Baseball in the Inner City, began in 2000 as a ministry out of Riverside Presbyterian Church. Roger Maniss, a member at the time, brought it to the church out of a similar program he had started in Memphis, according to Coach Jan Nicholas.

“There are kids who grew up in the program,” said Nicholas, who has been working with RBI for four years. “Jacob started when he was eight or nine years old and his sister Sarah was in a stroller when he started playing.”

Mildred Taylor, with great-granddaughter Maci Bland, is one of the original volunteers with RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner City)

Mildred Taylor, with great-granddaughter Maci Bland, is one of the original volunteers with RBI (Reviving Baseball in the Inner City)

Coach Mike Jones, who also has been with RBI from the beginning, has had nieces and nephews, as well as grandchildren go through the program. “Now they have children of their own attending,” he said. Jones, formerly of Riverside, also coaches Riverside Presbyterian Church Basketball.

Mildred Taylor, a volunteer and general cheerleader since RBI began, now brings her great-granddaughter, Maci Bland, to the camp. Taylor, who lives at Riverside Presbyterian Apartments, said years ago she would ask her boss to let her work on the weekends in order to have time off during the week to help with the baseball camp.

The three-week camp teaches baseball skills and teamwork to children age eight to 13, every morning from Monday to Thursday. Volunteers at Riverside Presbyterian Church make snacks and lunches. At the end of the program, all players are invited to attend a Jacksonville Suns game. This year 130 signed up to attend the game on July 27, according to Nicholas.

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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