The crack of a baseball bat. The smell of fresh-cut crash. Cheers bursting from the dugout. Kicking up dust while sliding into home base. These sights and sounds represent something much larger than "America's National Pastime." For area youth, these images represent a connection with the past that gives them a brighter future.
Baseball is a Rocky Mount Tradition
Baseball is also a Rocky Mount tradition; one of the sport’s most celebrated athletes has deep roots in Eastern North Carolina. Baseball great Buck Leonard – often called the "black Lou Gehrig" -- was born in Rocky Mount. Most noted for playing for the Homestead Grays, Leonard was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972.
Today, an association in his name is taking his legacy of sportsmanship, integrity and excellence to area youth through the Buck Leonard RBI Baseball League.
Rose Hunter is the executive director of the Buck Leonard Association for Sports and Human Enrichment. A quick glimpse at the group’s Facebook
page reveals much more than smiling faces and great baseball plays. It reveals a sense of community pride, a dedication to family values, and the inspirational bond between fathers and sons---all qualities that were reflected by Buck Leonard himself.
Rose Hunter also has a personal connection with the baseball great. Leonard married Hunter's mother after he retired from baseball in the 1970s, read more about this in the Rocky Mount Telegram
Buck Leonard Association for Sports and Human Enrichment Affiliated with MLB Program Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI)
Hunter started the association to give children in Rocky Mount’s inner city a fun community activity. It's affiliated with the Major League Baseball's Program, "Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI)."
She hopes that the baseball program can eventually provide other experiences—such as a trip to Washington, D.C to see a Nationals game and to tour Capitol Hill. But first, fundraising is needed to continue the great work the organization is doing both on the field and off.
The names of the baseball teams in the Buck Leonard RBI League are inspired by the names from the Negro League Baseball teams. At one of the many Rocky Mount Parks, spectators can catch a game by the Black Yankees, the Grays and the Black Sox.
"It has been good to see a lot of these kids transition from tee-ball up to our older divisions, and we’ve seen quite a few go on to play high school or even college ball,” Hunter said, quoted in an article in the Rocky Mount Telegram