Columbia County has been chosen as the test site for new baseball initiatives by the Ripken Baseball Group that will be announced at a Columbia County Chamber of Commerce night at Saturday's Augusta GreenJackets game.
Gordon Renshaw, the executive director of the chamber , said the county has been selected as the test site for a number of programs being developed by Ripken Baseball Group, which owns the GreenJackets.
"This is something we have been working on for a number of months now," Renshaw said. "We wanted to make sure we were fulfilling our mission statement by impacting the quality of life in Columbia County."
Renshaw said a sports subcommittee, which answers to the chamber's business development committee, was formed about four months ago with leadership from Ripken Baseball, the Augusta Lynx, the Family Y, Doctors Hospital and the Ice Sports Center, among others.
"We need to help the future fan base of both of these sports," said Renshaw of hockey and baseball, both of which have minor league teams in Augusta.
As far as the new baseball programs being announced Saturday night, Renshaw said they will be geared toward elementary-age pupils, with implementation of a new curriculum in Columbia County's elementary schools.
"Columbia County has a reputation for being able to try new things and blaze new trails," Renshaw said. "The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and Ripken Baseball have allocated $19,000 toward the programs, matching what will be put up by the private sector."
Renshaw said about $18,500 still needs to be raised, but he is optimistic that businesses will back the programs once they are unveiled.
"This will be a curriculum that will help students be able to perform and do their best at the sport of baseball and the values of baseball," Renshaw said.
Amy Venuto, the executive director for Ripken Baseball Group, said the county was chosen as the first test site because of the chamber's active involvement with the GreenJackets, and through discussions with chamber leaders on initiating new youth baseball programs in the county.
"As far as Ripken Baseball is concerned, we really want to be excellent partners with the CSRA," Venuto said. "We see ourselves as a community initiative. The Cal Sr. Foundation, as an entity, already knows how to teach the life lessons of baseball."
Venuto said she applauded the chamber's relationship with Ripken Baseball, and the business members who back the youth initiatives of the chamber.
Additional details of the programs will be made public during the GreenJackets' Saturday game vs. the Asheville Tourists, which starts at 7:05 p.m. at Lake Olmstead Stadium. Before the game, special recognition will be given to Columbia County's baseball champions, the Greenbrier High School Wolfpack and the Augusta Christian Schools Lions.
"The GreenJackets are pretty good at trying to pull together the community by spotlighting various communities and now it's time to turn the spotlight on Columbia County," said Karen Chrjapin, the interim director of programs at the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce.
The Dixie Youth O-Zone 11-12 year old World Series Champions also will be recognized, and the Children's Musical Theatre Workshop, directed by Mickey Lubeck, will perform the national anthem. Several Boy Scout, Girl Scout and Cub Scout troops will participate as "baseball buddies" during the pre-game activities, and state Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, is scheduled to attend.
Game tickets can be purchased at the Lake Olmstead Stadium box office during regular business hours, via phone at (706) 736-7889 or at www.tixonline.com. General admission tickets cost $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, military and children and $1 for children 3 and under. Reserved seating tickets cost $7.
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