Firefighter helps young ballplayers sharpen their skills

January 13, 2011 3:30:03 PM PST
America's favorite pastime is staying alive all winter-long on the Chicago's West Side.

It's how one firefighter shows his spirit of giving.

High school students are getting hands-on learning through the Chicago Police and Firefighter Training Program.

For the past three years, 23-year CFD veteran Lieutenant Frank Brim has been leading the team.

"I do miss going into the fires and running the street, but this is something that I'm compassionate about," Brim said.

Nearly 250 students from 75 city schools participate. By graduation, they are eligible for certification as EMTs. They are job ready.

"A lot of our kids don't make straight A's, but they still desire to be something in life. We use this as a catalyst to help them understand, if you're accountable, then you're employable," said Brim.

"What they focus on is disciplining us," said David Deleon, Von Steuben High School. "They are kind of hard, but it's good training for us."

"I thought that the instructors were going to be mean to us, but they're really nice and they're helpful and they work with us whenever we need help, and Lt. Brim is like a father-figure to most of us," said Jasmine Thomas, Perspectives Charter School.

And, with a change of a uniform, Lieutenant Brim becomes Coach Frank -- father-figure, mentor and baseball expert to children in his North Lawndale neighborhood.

"I'm a pitcher, so he's very inspiring to me. He's been to places that I want to go and he just has a lot to tell me about the game," said Lawrence Smith, Alaine Locke Charter Academy.

"That's the part that a lot of people don't understand," said Brim. "When they believe what you say about sports, they'll believe what you say about dating. They'll believe what you say about drugs, and we constantly tell them, stay away from drugs. Make good choices."

Brim and a few friends started First Round Baseball as a Little League team in Garfield Park four years ago. He says it's his way of giving back what was given to him.

"I grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes and I saw a lot of my friends making bad decisions," Brim said. "Baseball was the one thing that captivated me, that caught my attention and was engaging enough for me to realize that there was so much more I could do with myself."

That's why he keeps the summer sport going all year long.

Parents appreciate it.

"It keeps them off the streets. It keeps the kids busy. They enjoy the coaches," said Aretha Tharps, baseball mom.

For Brim, whether he's at the fire academy or on a makeshift baseball field, his goal to inspire the next generation.

"You see the light. When that light comes on you, know it," Brim said.

The First Round Baseball Academy does not have the funds to secure a permanent home, so Coach Frank makes weekly calls to local gyms to see who might donate time and space for the children to practice.


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