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Duke instructs local children in fundamentals

As fellow Duke students dressed up in costumes and prepared to head to Franklin Street on Halloween, the baseball team put on their warm-up uniforms and went to George Watts Montessori Magnet Elementary School off East Campus to lead a pair of baseball clinics for the students there.

Members of the sophomore and junior classes came up with the idea to hold the clinic after working closely with the school as part of a project for their education class. The team conducted a session in the morning for fourth and fifth graders and another in the afternoon for children in first through third grades.

"These guys come over here and tutor, and they have developed a relationship with some of the kids," head coach Sean McNally said. "The players thought this would be a good way to go above and beyond the tutoring part of it."

The Duke players worked with the elementary students on various baseball drills. Using mostly tennis balls for safety, the Blue Devils organized games and activities with ground balls, pop ups, base running, throwing and hitting off a tee.

In the spirit of Halloween, the players rewarded the children with candy after completing certain drills.

"The children make great connections with the players when they're being tutored by them," teacher Meneca Davis said. "But I think it is also beneficial for the children to do something that the tutors truly enjoy. Even the kids that aren't really sports-minded enjoy this because they respect and enjoy the tutors so much. Children need to have fun and it really helps when they get to have fun with authority figures."

Over the course of the two sessions, the Duke players worked with over 250 students at George Watts Elementary. In addition to their work at the school, members of the baseball teams have been volunteering with the Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House and various other charitable organizations throughout the Durham area.

"We've been cleaning and painting houses, and we thought this activity would be great because it's something we really like doing while still giving back to the community at the same time," sophomore Gabriel Saade said. "Most of us work as tutors here for our education class, and we see the kids inside the classroom. We figured that because we play on the baseball team we could also do something like this that's out of the classroom and a lot of fun for the kids."

With the wide array of drills and activities, the Blue Devils worked to teach the kids better eye-hand coordination while emphasizing the need to have fun learning the game of baseball.

The Duke players had the elementary students racing around the bases, hitting the ball for distance off a tee and throwing the ball into a target on a net placed about 10 feet away.

"We hope this is going to get the students interested in sports other than basketball which is all they're exposed to living around here," physical education teacher Stephanie Brennan said. "At this age, exposing them to anything involving eye-hand coordination is essential because it is useful in the classroom too. In reading but especially with writing, fine motor skills are needed."


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