El Segundo’s Beach City Baseball Academy provides lessons and inspiration to kids with special needs.
- Written byStefan Slater
CATCHING ON: Mentor Nigel Nootbaar with one of his quick studies, Rex Miller.
As many parents will attest, when a child or teen accomplishes an athletic goal, with the success comes a major boost to their self-esteem. Beach City Baseball Academy (BCBA) offers a unique, community service-oriented program that focuses on helping children learn the fundamentals of hitting a baseball, which in turn helps them improve their athletic skills and personal confidence.
Boasting top-of-the-line batting cages, talented coaches and vintage baseball memorabilia, BCBA is a focal point of the El Segundo baseball community. Richard Murad, owner of BCBA, notes that the baseball training facility has an “old baseball field sort of feel” and that local parents often bring in their children at a young age to get started with the sport. “We start early with 4- and 5-year-olds,” he says.
Richard also noticed that local parents often bring their children with special needs to BCMA, and these children enjoyed the batting cages tremendously. “The kids were happy and smiling and the parents were happy, so it gave me an idea,” he says.
He developed a new baseball program with special needs children in mind. Each Saturday and Sunday BCMA offers free, unlimited, one-on-one, 30-minute batting sessions for children with special needs.
Children from all across the South Bay, some as young as 4 years old, come to the academy for this particular program. “We get new kids every week,” says Richard.
These one-on-one sessions pair a child with a coach, and the coach then focuses on developing their bat-ting skills. “We give these kids a chance to have a good time, one on one,” says Kenny Woods, a coach with the program.
He notes that he works with the children to help them connect with the ball. “And when they do it, when their faces light up—it’s great. It builds confidence. Sometimes they connect, and it’s really exciting.”
Richard enjoys seeing the children gradually improve their batting skills. Once they connect, they’re proud of what they’ve accomplished, and the coaches are right there to keep them encouraged and focused. “The kids really take to that, and the coaches also get a lot out of it too. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Ryder Shields, age 6, has become a true baseball fan thanks to BCBA’s special needs program. “The more success that he achieved, the more times that he’d hit the ball squarely, the more pride he’d feel,” says Ryder’s father, Scott Shields.
Ryder, who has Down syndrome, works closely with a coach during his one-on-one batting time, and these coaches (some of whom have semi-pro and major league experience) often help Ryder keep working and stay focused.
“It’s been really helpful to have this one-on-one program so that someone can concentrate on him and keep him on track. He’s shown great results,” says Scott.
He notes that his son has grown more confident in his baseball skills, and he’s even starting to play at home. “We have a batting tee in the front yard, and he analyzes his swing to make sure that he makes solid contact.”
Ryder’s taken to watching baseball games on TV now too, thanks to his time with the academy. He’s a Los Angeles Angels fan, and he and his father often watch games together. Ryder pays special attention when his two favorite players, Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, make an appearance.
Scott makes sure to keep up Ryder’s enthusiasm for his favorite team whenever he’s at the academy. “When he’s having his lessons, we’ll say, ‘Hit it like Trout, or hit it like Pujols!’”
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During separate Coronation Balls at Mira Costa High School (left: 1962-63, and right: 1956-57)
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