Improving police-community relationships is a critical challenge that benefits law enforcement and citizens alike. At the same time, many communities struggle to keep team sports and other organized activities affordable and accessible for all families. 

The new Winston-Salem Police Foundation Police Athletic League Tee Ball project is an effort to address both of those seemingly unrelated issues—and give local kids something fun to do this summer. Womble Bond Dickinson Partner Chris Geis has been one of the key organizers in the effort, which started play on Thursday, June 30. Geis also is serving as Commissioner of the new league.

The tee ball league features eight teams of girls and boys ages 5 to 8—the Athletics, Braves, Dodgers, Orioles, Yankees, Blues, Camels, Forty-Fours, Peacekeepers and Pond Giants. In all, more than 80 children are playing in the league’s inaugural season. Winston-Salem police officers are volunteering their time to coach the teams and umpire the games, creating positive police-community interaction and giving the officers a chance to serve as mentors.

Organized by the Winston-Salem Police Foundation, the effort would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Winston-Salem Police Department, the City of Winston-Salem Parks & Recreation Department and numerous community partners. For example, WBD client Hanesbrands, Inc. donated the uniforms and Academy Sports + Outdoors provided equipment. WBD also is a sponsor of the league. 

The opening day ceremony featured a special guest in Wake Forest basketball legend Randolph Childress, who threw out the first pitch. Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines also joined police and city officials at the ceremony.

All games are being held at Rupert Bell Park in east Winston-Salem. The field is about 10 blocks from Union Station, where home run king Hank Aaron signed his first professional baseball contract. Baseball has not been played there in about 25 years, but the City of Winston-Salem upgraded the ball field this past winter for this project.

Geis said that the league’s goal is to add teams for older kids in future years.

The league has received significant attention in the local media, including a front-page story in the July 10 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal. The Winston-Salem Chronicle also wrote about the tee ball league. WSJS radio, WGHP-TV, and Spectrum News have also done stories.