Most little league coaches don’t have to sweep the diamond for needles. But, in Camden, NJ, that’s a top-of-the-list responsibility.
Camden is routinely ranked among the most dangerous cities in America. That’s why Bryan Morton founded the North Camden Little League, an opportunity for boys and girls to stay safe and play baseball and softball.
“Life here in Camden is dangerous. Life here in Camden is deadly. For every moment; for every second that the kids are out here playing, they’re not getting shot at. For every second that they’re here, they’re not witnessing something that can get them hurt later on,” Morton told Great Big Story. “For kids that aren’t participating, they’re hustling. For kids who are participating in the league, they’re safe.”
Morton started the league six years ago while working on his graduate degree.
In 2011, Pyne Poynt Park was a haven for drug dealers and users, not for the community and its children. Morton was a teaching assistant at Rutgers University–Camden working on his master’s and had studied how the health of the community is dependent upon its environment. He thought restarting the Little League would be a positive influence on the neighborhood and the children. (Courrier-Post)
Morton knows the area and its problems well. He’s a Camden native who dropped out of high school and dealt drugs. His arrest was followed by serving eight years in prison. When he was released, he felt like he had to give back, so baseball, even though it hadn’t been played in almost 20 years, entered his mind.
“…Morton’s mother couldn’t afford to enroll him in Little League, so he recalls participating only one season, mostly sitting on the bench. Despite that, he remembered it fondly.
“That grounded you,” he said. “I needed to ground the community again.”
The North Camden Little League started with 100 kids, and today, more than 650 kids between the ages of 5 and 18 are enrolled
“If I don’t do it, no one else is going to do it,” he told Great Big Story in this video:
Proof that one person can make a difference.