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8:02 PM, Nov 18, 2013   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- A new program called "Badges for Baseball" is kicking off in South Carolina.

It was started over a decade ago by hall of-fame Major League Baseball player, Cal Ripken, Jr. Law enforcement officers hope the program will help keep kids away from crime.

"I like playing games with my friends because I like throwing ball and kicking the ball, and when I do that in the house, I get in trouble for breaking things," said Aisha Mack, a fifth grade student at A.J. Lewis Greenview Elementary school in Columbia.

Mack is one of 46 kids from the school who meet a group of law enforcement officers once each week, according to Richland County Deputy Joe White.

White is one of ten deputies from the Richland Sheriff's Department, and six officers from the Columbia Police Department, he said.

Once they arrive at Columbia's Meadowlake Park, they have a half-hour long study session in which they do homework, then they are allowed to play "quickball," which is a modified version of baseball.

"It's an opportunity to bridge the gap between baseball and the community, and the kids in our community," White said.

White believes the efforts of him and the other law enforcement officials he works with in the program change the perspective of each kid.

"During our life lessons classes, when we teach them, we get the opportunity to challenge them that you don't have one option," White said. "You have many levels of options to choose from, and we want to try and guide them in the right direction."

"They keep us safe and they teach us what we need to know, and leadership and communicating without starting an argument." Aisha added.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said a fund set aside by the General Assembly for after school programs makes the program possible.

Wilson said it's money the state may not have to spend later prosecuting kids after they make mistakes.

"If we could just spend a very small portion of that on the front end, and reach these kids before many of them make that bad decision or choose that course in life," Wilson said, "then I figure we could curve the amount of money we're ultimately spending on the back end."

Wilson said he is hoping to expand the program to counties and school districts across the state.

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