For one seventh grader at Isaac Middle School, baseball is the thread that connects him to his father in Mexico.

The student* was found eligible as one with a Specific Learning Disability when he was in fourth grade. He required additional reading and math instruction in a resource classroom to support his educational progress.

Before baseball season began, his mother and teachers had shared concerns about his lack of motivation. His mother opened up about how he had struggled since his father was deported two years prior. His parents had been separated previously, and his father was living in Minnesota at the time.

The two had maintained a strong bond over baseball.

The student’s father had gotten him involved in baseball at a young age. When he was in fifth grade, he was on a club baseball team and had a tournament over a weekend. His dad made a special trip down to watch his son play. While staying at a hotel, his father was taken away.

Despite the distance, the child and father remained close, talking regularly, sharing updates on the child’s baseball team.

Participating in baseball helped the student improve his grades, as players are required to maintain a grade of C or higher in order to play. This student was able to stay on task and accurately complete his assignments to remain on the team, and he proudly shared his accomplishments with his dad, strengthening his motivation to keep his grades up.

Located in Phoenix, AZ, Isaac Middle School estimates that 80% of students who participated on the baseball team in 2019 improved their academic scores as a result of playing.

“The baseball season has been an incredible experience for all of the boys on the team,” said school psychologist Sarah Marsh.

“Their relationships have blossomed on the field as well as off. A group of the 7th grade boys have all shared how much they admired their 8th grade teammates and hope to be role models to younger players next year.”

Marsh said the players have all recognized that they impact their classmates and they adhere to the school’s behavioral expectations and strive for academic success.

The coach told his team that as long as they continued to do well in school, he would look to enter them in a second tournament to keep their season going. The players followed through on keeping their grades up, and were able to participate in the Phoenix City Baseball Championship.

The players had been able to put in more time practicing on their own, since the donation the school received from PIFBS provided them with enough equipment to use. The team won 1st place in the tournament, ending their season on a high note as they continued to demonstrate their leadership as the school year came to an end.

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*Names have been redacted.