Dallas Nationals are Restoring Faith in Baseball

Dallas Nationals are Restoring Faith in Baseball

by Susan Neuhalfen

24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the field at the Dallas Nationals is open to its players to practice. They may seem like any other team in select baseball complete with training facility, coaching staff and parents helping out. However, there is a distinct difference in what they are teaching their players.

Every Friday night the Dallas Nationals open their doors to the players and families for a Bible study. Since January of this year, the study has grown from six kids to over 30. Dads, coaches and outside coaches from schools like Liberty Christian have come to speak to the students and help the kids bond with each other as well as their families.

“We want to bring Christianity to the forefront and teach the kids what’s really important in life,” says Dallas Nationals owner Richey Jones.
Currently they are studying the Book of John and will continue this study throughout the year at the Backyard Dugout where the Dallas Nationals practice. The fellowship lasts about 20-30 minutes and then the kids are treated to a pizza party.

Player father Stirling Vineyard echoes Jones’ sentiment about the Bible study’s impact on the families.

“These kids and their families are learning about each other on a deeper level,” said Stirling about the Bible study. “By sharing our faith it helps us care more about the kids on the field and their families in the stands.”

Both Jones and Vineyard mentioned that the excitement and interest level of the parents have trickled down to the kids and the studies are now including parents and siblings. The kids enjoy the fellowship and fun while the parents have something more to share than small talk. The bond formed has driven deeper relationships on and off the field according to Vineyard.

Vineyard’s praises of the select team are not limited to the Bible study. His opinion of Richey Jones and the structure of the organization is very high as well.

“Richey empowers his coaches and parents to use their gifts,” explained Vineyard. “No other team is structured this way.”

Another distinct difference with the Dallas Nationals is that they don’t believe in pigeonholing their players into one position. While most teams focus a player on one spot, owner Richey Jones believes that the players should take time learning other positions and see if their gifts lie elsewhere.

“We encourage electives every week to give the players the opportunity to specialize in a particular position,” says Jones. “If a player who usually plays outfield would like to change positions and become a shortstop, we have an infield elective class to help him get there.”

Electives include hitting, pitching, infield, and strength and training. The electives are designed to help the players either get better at current positions or prepare to move positions. Richey says it also helps them to find out if the position is suited for the player. Coaches who specialize in those positions teach the elective and the boys are given the opportunity to learn from someone with experience.

The most important focus for the Dallas Nationals, however, is the dedication to helping young players prepare for life both on and off the field. The players and coaches, according to Jones, are from many other organizations and had become disillusioned with the focus being solely on the sport and nothing else. They came together to build a program that would be respected and produced not only a great team, but also players who would be role models for the community.

As an example, one parent told of an instance where a player was allowing his parent to carry his gear – a definite no-no in this organization. The coach demanded the player give him 10 push-ups and then carry his own gear. The coaches and staff make it clear that they are focusing on core values and building character, explained the mom of two baseball players. She went on to say that she welcomed the help as she and her husband transition their boys to more responsible roles.

“We want these kids to achieve their highest potential in the sport and in life,” explains Richey. “The most important thing is that we are growing future adults, fathers and husbands through baseball.“

“At the end of the day, isn’t that what this is all about?” added Vineyard.

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