by Mellissa Thomas
The Orlando City Hall Rotunda was filled and ready for the Metropolitan Junior Baseball League (MJBL) and Orlando Monarchs Baseball (OMB) kickoff reception Friday evening. District 6 Commissioner Samuel B. Ings, District 3 Commissioner Robert F. Stuart, and Orange County District 2 Soil and Water Conservation Supervisor Daisy Morales joined OMB coach and founder Rickie Weeks, Sr. in the celebration. Special guests also included the Metropolitan Junior Baseball League National Commissioner Michael Mayden, who congratulated Weeks and urged the audience to support the team and league. Several OMB team members and their families were present as well.
The Big Announcement
Weeks announced that Orlando will host MJBL’s Inner City Classic tournament in July, which brings minority youth players and teams from all over the country; and Bright House Networks will broadcast the event, running from July 26th to August 2nd, to “over 38 million homes.”
He also provided the audience with a brief overview of his team and its strong focus on educational excellence as a requisite for membership. “We tell the kids to have one hundred percent homework [completion], and read for an hour every day,” he emphasized. “If you read more often, the math actually becomes easier, and you learn the logistics.” He said that in OMB’s two-year run, as a result of that requisite, eighty percent of the team’s youth were excelling in honor roll programs, and five went on to college on baseball scholarships. He shared his vision of having future games broadcast regularly to highlight the talent of inner city youth, which he feels is very needed.
Weeks in the Major Leagues
Following Coach Weeks’s speech was an intimate Q&A session with his son Jemile Weeks, who plays for the Boston Red Sox. He attended the University of Miami on a baseball scholarship and played his first Major League Baseball game with the Oakland Athletics at twenty-four years old. “It felt good to have a goal and attach yourself to that goal,” he reflected on the experience. Coach Weeks proudly added that his son graduated high school with a 4.1 GPA taking all honors courses. “So it can be done,” he added.
Jemile Weeks shared his youth baseball experience and developing a love for the game. “You learn discipline, problem solving, teamwork…” he exhorted about the game in his introduction. “Baseball teaches you so much about everyday life.”
Then came the questions. One came from a young boy in the audience who asked how Weeks was recruited to the major leagues. “My dad always had me around the game, so I was always playing and meeting different key people,” he answered. “The key is to stay visible. I always traveled to playing in tournaments across the state and the country, so by the time I played in college, talent scouts knew who I was and recruited me.”
When asked about his experience playing baseball with his father as coach, he admitted, “It was kind of tough…you know, there are different opinions, but parents are the base root. It’s important for the parents to instill the base of the sport into the child.” He then encouraged the children in the audience accordingly to trust and obey their parents.
One of the parents then asked his take on keeping a child motivated if he’s discouraged or ready to give up. “It’s very important that you listen to your child,” he gently advised. “If you see that he’s not really passionate about it, maybe baseball is not for him. But find out what he does like. It could be basketball, art, music…But find out what he enjoys and support him.”
Another young boy asked Weeks what position he played on the field and why he chose it, to which he replied and revealed he is now a versatile player. He began as a short stop in his youth, but once he reached college, the team already had a short stop, so he became a second baseman, which he remained until very recently. For the Boston Red Sox, he now plays multiple positions: short stop, second baseman, and third baseman.
Coach Weeks, who also has his other son, Rickie Weeks, playing for the Seattle Mariners, ended the evening with a strong caution for both the youth in the audience and their parents. “You don’t have opportunities unless the parents provide it for you. And to get opportunities, you need favor.” He explained the factors that affect favor: the way a child carries himself, the way he respects others, and how he performs academically. “Stay encouraged,” he concluded. “You can do it, and we can do it together.”