If a neighborhood child wants to play baseball, the Exchange Club of Lake Highlands and the YMCA try to make it happen.

And that’s harder to do than it sounds.

Coaches must be found who are willing to volunteer at least six hours of their time each week. Baseball gloves and uniforms must be purchased for the children. Program enrollment costs must be paid.

Despite these obstacles, the Exchange Club and White Rock/Lake Highlands YMCA have assembled several teams of underprivileged students for the past five years. Lynn Austin, who has been coaching one of the teams for the past three years, says it’s hard but rewarding work coaching children who have never picked up a baseball glove before.

“I hope that maybe somewhere down the line, they’ll turn around and do something for someone else,” Austin says.

This year, the group sponsored four teams, each made up of 14-20 students, including a first-grade team coached by Exchange Club members Don Floyd and Bob Royer, a second and third-grade team coached by Lynn Austin, a fourth-grade team coached by Jerry Ferguson and Kevin Cate, and a fifth-grade team coached by neighborhood resident Henry Stover.

“The guys who volunteer get as much of a thrill out of it as the kids do,” says Royer, who has been involved in the program since it first started in 1992.

“I like coaching baseball,” Royer says. “It’s a great sport for kids, and it’s fun to see these kids succeed.”

The spring playing season has 10-12 games, and the teams practice twice a week and play one or two games per week.

The regular program cost for YMCA baseball is $48, but the Y offers $12 scholarship fees for the program. The Exchange Club provides the uniforms and gloves for team members, and if a child’s family is particularly needy, the club will pay the $12 fee for the student. Royer says baseball instills valuable life lessons into the children as they learn to play as a team, he says. Responsibility, respect, honesty and sportsmanship are a few of the important skills they learn, Royer says.

And the kids aren’t the only ones learning, he says. Kids will be kids, and they end up keeping the coaches quite entertained, Royer says.

“Some of the stuff they’ve done,” Royer laughs. “You’ll be telling stories forever about them.”

For information about the program or about coaching, call Bob Royer at 214-348-3232.