Academic success celebrated at Raley Field

Although the 4,000 students came by bus, it was their attitude, attendance and academics that brought them to Raley Field as part of the AAA School Program.Each year since its inception in 2000, the River Cats U.S. Bank AAA Program has celebrated the achievement of a select group of students in the Sacramento region. With the 25,000 students and educators making the trip to the ballpark each season, approximately 250,000 kids have made this program a memory of their own.Headed by award-winning speaker and educator Tony Asaro, the AAA School Program reinforces educational goals that schools in the area already have in place, while teaching the students in a fun, interactive and exclusive learning environment — Raley Field.

“These students right here are students of influence in their school,” says Asaro as he looks upon the students in attendance on a Wednesday in May. “They are changing the culture of their community. These are the leaders of the future.”

The trip to Raley Field isn’t something that happened overnight. The teachers and students have been looking forward to the day for some time.

“Tony (Asaro) came to our school a few months ago and we had our U.S. Bank AAA Assembly,” said Julia Patrick, an English teacher at Westmore Oaks Elementary in West Sacramento. “The kids are really receptive to him. He’s very dynamic.”

Tony speaks with 150 schools annually, but this year is on pace to speak with more than 200 schools.

“We go and set the tone with the motivational assembly,” Asaro says. “They set their goals for the year and at the end of the year they come out here.”

After students were recognized for academics and character, River Cats Manager Darren Bush and catcher Anthony Recker spoke with the students. Talking about their childhood experiences with school and athletics, Bush and Recker let the kids know about the importance of academics and character.

Bush, a graduate at Valdosta State University in Georgia, told the kids that good character is “making the good choices, not the easy ones.”

Bush and Recker then put themselves out there, allowing kids to ask them an assortment of questions, enabling the students to speak with the player and manager they will see on the field later in the day.

Although the kids are out here because of their academics, the students have been looking forward to watching some baseball. For some, it is their first time at the ballpark.

“For some kids athletics is the only thing they connect to, so to me it is very important,” said Miss Patrick. “You would be surprised how many kids in Sacramento haven’t been able to come to a River Cats game.”

For some kids, their first time to the ballpark could be their only time, but Tony wants to make sure these kids leave understanding the importance of good character, with the River Cats being a prime example.

“It’s the only way you can be successful in life,” Asaro said. “We here at the River Cats can teach anyone to be part of our organization, whether it’s in the media, marketing, whatever. We try to make sure the character is there first.”

John Harris, a seventh grade math teacher at Southport Elementary in West Sacramento, has been to Raley Field before.

“Last year the kids got to speak with the manager and a couple of the players,” said Mr. Harris. “We brought them back because it was close to where we are and it’s a lot of fun. We get to be outside and watch baseball.”

Bush and Recker aren’t the only River Cats who have made academics a priority. Teammates Adrian Cardenas is currently enrolled at New York University, while Michael Taylor is working toward a degree at Stanford. Many more River Cats players have graduated college and had successful careers in and out of baseball.

For many of the kids it was nice to see their new team come away with the win. But for teachers like Miss Patrick and Mr. Harris, that win is just a symbol for what the future holds for their students and the thousands of other students who were able to make it out to the ballpark.

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