Softball Game Gives Cleveland Offenders Much More than Exercise
“Sports is a medium by which offenders can connect,” says Cleveland Correctional Center Chaplain Paul Polk. “It breaks the ice.”
The Sports Reach Ministry Softball team recently came to the Cleveland center.
“They’ve been coming out here on this unit for the last 14 years,” explains Chaplain Polk. “The guys look forward to seeing them every year. They have some great baseball players, we have some great baseball players here on our unit, and it’s a lot of good fun. And it gives the volunteers the opportunity to talk one on one.”
Besides sharing a spiritual message close to their hearts, volunteers are instrumental in building bridges to the outside world. Inmate Abraham Dymek agrees.
“I think this gives us a good opportunity to be face to face with outside people. And gives us more time to interact and get ready to go home.”
Volunteer Roland Furstenfeld alludes to the sacrifice involved. “The group of guys that we work with, we all come from all over. Some of us drive a couple of hours to get here.”
“We’ve always loved coming here,” adds volunteer Jim McKenzie. “We’ve always had a great response here.” Furstenfeld continues, “The whole purpose of this is to love them and show that we care about [them].”
“Most people look at us like trash, dirt, throwaways.” Inmate Christopher Rodway feels strongly about the presence of the volunteers coming out to the facility. “But I think it’s good the guys coming out here playing, just enjoying, spending time with us. It gives a lot of us courage and we understand that we’re not left out. We’re not left alone.”
Doug Jaeger, another volunteer, explains his enthusiasm. “I can’t tell you how much I love these guys. I’ve been doing it for seven, eight years, and it’s awesome.”
With every visit, the softball ministry volunteers are impressed with the operation of the Cleveland facility, as attested by Rick Smith who characterizes the unit as “very hospitable, very welcoming to us. [They] take care of us,” he continues. He goes on to say the facility is top-notch.
“They take care of their facility. We go to a lot of units, and their fields are not taken care of, and it’s really rough on us. When we come to Cleveland, it’s a really good facility.”
Inmate Rodway is likewise positive in his impressions of the Cleveland unit.
“Things that you see on this unit, you wouldn’t see on most units. But it’s a good thing, because you know, everybody out here is trying to go home; everybody gets along.”
“We really appreciate y’all,” volunteer Rick Smith sums up. “We think we’re coming to to be a blessing to y’all, but we’re always the ones getting blessed, so we thank y’all for having us.”