Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Baseball and Soccer players give back to the Southeast community

Monday, September 25, 2017
Southeast baseball team poses with Leigh Ragsdale, principal of Franklin Elementary School in Cape Girardeau.
Photo submitted by Sean Stevenson.

The Southeast baseball and soccer programs are looking to make a difference within the community, this time with the students at Franklin Elementary.

The Southeast baseball program just recently started helping out the students at Franklin, where the soccer program started in the spring. Baseball head coach Andy Sawyers said he wanted to do community service projects that actually have an effect on someone.

“We did a lot of different community service that were already in place last year,” Sawyers said. “A lot of it was work that anybody could have done, like passing out waters at a 10K. It’s all worthwhile, but it’s how much of an impact are you actually having on someone else and what are your kids getting out of it because this is supposed to be educational for our kids as well.”

Before the baseball program started to help out at Franklin, Sawyers talked with women’s soccer head coach Heather Nelson about different community service projects they have done.

“I wanted to know what worked for her and so we talked about community service and she mentioned what they begun at Franklin the year before. It was everything we were wanting to do without verbalizing what we were trying to get accomplished,” Sawyers said.

Nelson said her vision at Franklin is to see what effect her players can have on the students.

“We’ve been asked to do a lot of community service, and we have a lot of kids that are giving that want to give back to the community,” Nelson said. “We wanted to try to find something that was permanent that could make a real difference in someone’s life.”

Nelson went on to say that starting with your own community and with children is the best place to give back to the community.

Sawyers said even though Southeast players aren’t playing for a big school, they still can make meaningful change in the community.

“I always joke with our kids and say that they don’t know that we don’t play in the [Southeastern Conference] in the Bootheel. Student-athletes at SEMO are a big deal in this part of the country,” Sawyers said.

Sawyers also said having Southeast players coming into the classrooms at Franklin will be beneficial to the students as well as the players because they get to learn life lessons about influence and their effect.

When the players go to Franklin to help the students, they are there to help with homework, answer any questions they may have, and be a role model for them.

Junior pitcher Adam Pennington said it wasn’t the easiest at the beginning when it came to helping out at Franklin, but as time went along it got easier.

“For the first couple of weeks, it was actually kind of rough because the kids didn’t pay attention very well, but as they started to get to know us and started talking more and more comfortable. It started feeling really good to us and they started looking up to us and asking us questions,” Pennington said. “They just need someone to look up to and that’s the best part about it.”

Freshman goalkeeper Maddie Gleeson said it’s a good feeling helping out the kids and when she sees them out in public.

“It’s really rewarding I think because even to this day if I’m out and about and I see one of the kids, I may not recognize them at first because there’s so many of them,” Gleeson said. “But they’ll come screaming and hugging you. It’s cool to see.”

Gleeson and senior midfielder Maggie Pike said having students look up to them as role models after one semester is rewarding.

Another baseball player, sophomore catcher Alex Bline said he was partnered specifically with one student who doesn’t have a father figure.

“At first it was intimidating,” Bline said. “But as soon as I got to know him we kind of clicked and he’s a really nice kid, and if I can help him out as much as I can then I’ll do that.”

Bline added that it shines on both the university and the soccer and baseball programs that they are doing this and are willing to be there for the community.

Along with the helping out at Franklin, the soccer program also participates in Feed My Starving Children, the Polar Plunge, Special Olympics and they volunteer with the Cape Girardeau Department of Parks and Recreation.

The baseball team also volunteers with Feed My Starving Children, Student Santas and looks to do a few more activities within the community.

Nelson said even though their players are very busy, it shows how dedicated they are to give back to the community.

“The really neat thing about the collaboration between baseball and soccer is that now the kids at Franklin will have a year-round of academic influence in their lives,” Nelson said.