MILWAUKEE -- Baseball is a sport of failure. Even top Major League batters fail seven out of 10 times, but a program in Milwaukee has taught kids how to succeed, rather than fail when it comes to what they get out of playing.
A life-long educator, Bob Heinkel knows a good teaching moment when he sees one.
"This is my master's thesis that I started 30 years ago out of a need for learning and building up kids rather than let competition, comparison and pressure rule the learning and the tender learning psyche of these kids," Heinkel said.
Heinkel has run "Circuit Baseball" at Milwaukee Lutheran High School summer after summer.
"Thirty years and 10,000 kids -- a little more, but we eclipsed that last year and it's just been a lot of fun, a lot of smiles, a lot of joy," Heinkel said.
The youth baseball scene has undergone tremendous change in the last decade, with multiple indoor facilities popping up and scores of travel teams being formed, but there is still a place for Circuit Baseball, and now, Circuit Softball. It's up-tempo and divided into short sessions. Boys and girls ages 6-12 learn the game and how to conduct themselves.
"It's a very non-threatening environment, so with comparison and issues of 'oh, I'm better than you' -- we really don't have those," Heinkel said.
It's not that Heinkel is against the idea of competition. He's the long-time varsity baseball coach at Lutheran and owns an impressive record. But he views the game as an avenue to develop complete people as much as complete players.
"We really need to give the kids a foundation in body, mind and soul. It all works together, and we need to have them understand and address how that works in their interpersonal working with their other nine-year-old partner or teammate and it all fits into a scheme over their growth in life," Heinkel said.
Back when there were fewer baseball options for kids in the summer, Heinkel used to draw from Racine County to the Lake Country. His program's geographical reach isn't as great anymore, but Circuit Baseball was and is an institution in Milwaukee.
"We've seen a number of kids go on to play pro ball, but there's kids that have come in that have been handicapped and under this circumstance, they can play this game without every perfect detail. It really works great for the almost epidemic of ADD. We have something to meet that kid," Heinkel said.
Circuit Baseball will be up and running again this summer. CLICK HERE to learn more.