Middle School Students Learn More Than Baseball at Minute Maid

"We are going to head through what we call 'Home Run Alley'…"

A Houston Astros tour guide shows a group of students around Minute Maid Park.

"Down here we have…"

The students are part of a mentoring program sponsored by the Houston Police Department. Program director Andre Mathews decided to take them on field trip.

"Exposing them to the Astros, they thought a game. No this is careers. The game is getting a career plan for success."

Once a week a police officer meets with the students at their school. They talk about things like staying out of trouble, goals, future plans. Mathews says the trip to the baseball stadium is about exposing the students to jobs they may never have thought about.

"We don’t want them to see sports. We want you to see opportunity so when you walk around, what did it take to get this stadium built? What did it take to get the job of the people you seen in uniform?"

The tour guide takes the students to the luxury suites and then down near the field. Pershing Middle School Principal Lucia Flores is chaperoning to keep the students in line. She says she can already see a change.

"Not only have we seen grades increase, but we’ve also seen a decrease in discipline issues."

The students are mostly black and Latino. Many of the boys dream of playing in a stadium like this one day, but director Mathews is trying to change their way of thinking without destroying their dreams.

"So if we can instill in them that your brain is your most powerful gift, not your physical abilities, because you can easily get hurt or damaged, but it’s your brain that will excel you throughout life regardless of what handicaps, ailments or difficulties you come across."

Many of the students have already experienced difficulties at such an early age. But Mathews believes they can overcome them. They start off with simple goals. Not college or degrees, things like not having to go to summer school. Principal Flores says that 45 min session each the officers each week is paying off.

"Believe me when I say I have seen lives changed, because of this program or partly because of this program. I’ve seen attitudes change. I’ve actually seen students consider careers, something they hadn’t focused on before."

Although the odds of anyone in the group ever playing for the Astros is slim, organizers of the mentoring program hope some of their students will return to the ballpark…perhaps working for the Astros, or perhaps as owners of one of those luxury suites.

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