More than 130 kids, many of them Navajo, practiced swinging the bat and played catch with Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox centerfielder of Navajo heritage and a member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes, and other Major League Baseball personnel, on Saturday, January 12.
The Second Annual N7 Jacoby Ellsbury Baseball Camp attracted twice as many youth as last year. "It's great to see the kids' faces light up," Ellsbury told the Navajo Times. "Last year we started out with 60 kids and this year we had 130 of them."
The camp took place at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale, Arizona, the same stadium used for spring training by the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies, and owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. The park will also serve as one of the venues for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.
Even the coaching academy for the Arizona Diamondbacks participated in facilitating the camp. "It was great," Sam McCraken, Nike’s Native American business manager and chairman of the N7 Fund, told the Navajo Times. "What these kids are walking away from is hands-on experience."
McCracken, who grew up on the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux reservation in northeastern Montana, gave birth to N7 in 2001. Nike N7 is one of the premier initiatives throughout North America encouraging Native and aboriginal youth to engage in sport and physical activity.
“The People are at a point, they realize the health situation, but they don’t know how to fix it,” McCracken previously told Indian Country Today Media Network in the article Nike N7's Sam McCracken Leaves Footprints in Spirit, Hearts and Minds. “We’ve been given as a people a unique opportunity to amplify and create change in our communities. Nike created a Toolkit, and a lot of my voice was in it.”
One of the ultimate goals of N7 is to curb obesity and diabetes among young people in Indian country. "N7 is about getting kids out, getting them active," Ellsbury told the Navajo Times. "Getting the kids to live a healthy active lifestyle. That is the what the initiative is all about."
Ellsbury is one of many Native athletes known as Nike N7 Ambassadors. Others include Temryss Lane, Tahnee Robinson, Chris Wondolowski, Alvina Begay, Sam Bradford, Rene Borque, Craig Robinson, Waneek Horn-Miller and Caroline Calve.
McCracken hopes to grow the N7 Jacoby Ellsbury Baseball Camp in coming years, but he'll need more sponsorship to do it.