Last Updated: Monday, April 04, 2016, 6:15 AM EDT
About 10 years ago two friends, both St. Petersburg coaches, saw far too many low income kids priced out of the great American game of baseball.
So, Charles Castle and Mike Fintak decided to do something about it.
They built a team, and named it Burg Baseball. Castle says that’s when the train began to roll.
“And that one team next year turned into four teams and the four teams turned into 12,” Castle said. “Oh boy. We got a league here.”
Burg Baseball's website makes clear the at-risk elements the organizers hope to beat back through America's pastime.
“Rough, decaying neighborhoods, single-parent homes, little or no disposable family income. Pervasive drug abuse and gang presence. All opponents to young people looking for a better way.”
Burg Baseball’s Secretary Shelia Castle says these kids are winners.
“To see them succeed on the field and I know that that only means they’re succeeding off the field too. And that’s what makes me proud,” she said.
The non-profit exists with help from the community. And that sound when Charles speaks is the sound of pride.
“It takes a lot of courage in this game to stand in there and have that ball whipping by you," said Castle, the pride evident in his voice. "And every year it gets faster and faster, the kids get stronger and stronger, and it’s just a great pleasure to watch them.”
Co-founder Mike Fintak, who passed away in 2009, neatly summed up the mission statement that continues to fuel Burg Baseball's efforts.
“Every child can perform at their best, and we will not allow them to fall by the wayside.”
“[Mike] would be very proud," said Mike's wife, Burg Baseball Treasurer Trese Fintak. "I’m sure he is looking down on all of this going, ‘It’s still going and it’s getting better.”
The games are free and open to all. See you at the ball park?