Steven Buller always knew that team sports were important, but his first season coaching baseball at Universal Audenried Charter High School was an eye-opening experience.
“It’s easy to forget that not every kid gets a chance to play youth sports, to attend summer camps, to be that winning pitcher when every one of your teammates, coaches, and family members is cheering for you,” Buller said.
“Not all kids get to attend schools with money for these kinds of formative experiences. I think that inequity is an absolute shame. It breaks my heart and it motivates me to keep doing what I’m doing.”
With a little help from an equipment grant, Audenried was able to start its baseball program in 2019. Buller said that the inaugural year for the baseball team had a profound effect on many involved.
Alexis started at second base, but eventually earned an opportunity to pitch. This is where he really excelled.
“He began watching YouTube videos on how to improve as a pitcher,” Buller said. “He would beg us to stay later and later at practices to help him improve.”
When the team finally won its first game, Alexis was on the mound.
“When he threw that last strike, you would have thought we’d just won a state championship,” Buller said. “Everyone erupted into cheers and hugged him. His mom was there. As someone who taught this young man back when he was a freshman, I don’t think I’d ever seen him so confident, so proud.”
That motivation frequently carries over to the classroom.
Universal Audenried Charter is located in Philadelphia, PA, and 19 players took part in the school’s inaugural team. About 90% showed improvements in their academic scores.
One of the school’s freshman was a big part of inspiring the team on the field.
“Lafonse elevated our team to a level I didn’t think we would be able to reach during our first season,” Buller said.
“This young man was phenomenal in his ability to seek out as much knowledge as possible on his own. I would receive numerous messages and questions from Lafonse throughout the day after practices or games would end. Lafonse was highly motivated to elevate his game, he would constantly watch Major League games and strategically watch every opponent to see how he could improve his catching abilities.”
The game also allowed Lafonse to form a stronger bond with his mother, who had played softball, and to grow into a leader on the field.
“He was able to raise his grades, come to school earlier and on time more often than previously, motivate himself to be a role model for the team and others, and allowed him to practice leadership by motivating and encouraging others to elevate their effort.”
Lafonse was named the team’s MVP.
“I believe baseball has changed Lafonses’s entire outlook on life, school, and his future.”
At PIFBS, we need your help to provide support for schools like Universal Audenried and give students the benefits and lessons that the game provides. If you have new or lightly-used equipment you can donate, please schedule a donation here or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or click here to provide a monetary contribution.