Frank Brim, 63, is the co-founder of the Garfield Park Park Little League and current director of baseball operations for the BASE Chicago, a youth baseball league on the West Side.
The Austin resident and retired Chicago firefighter recently talked about his program and how he’s engaged his young participants with police and law enforcement issues.
This is the second part of a two-part West Side Lives interview with Brim.
On conversations he’s having nowadays with his young players about the police
I tell the kids all the time, when the police stop you, put your hands out the window. Say, ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No sir.’ I used to keep my phone and my wallet under the seat of my car and I started thinking about that. ‘Dude, do you know how many times you sent under the seat of your car to grab your wallet?’ That could’ve been seen as a threat or whatever. I could’ve gotten my head blown off years ago. I think because I was a fireman I could diffuse the situation a little quicker. But that doesn’t happen for everybody.
I always felt that it’s great that I can get a pass, but every young man out there is not getting a pass. And it should be addressed. I say all the time, it’s really not a training issue. If it were a training issue, then Black male officers and the Black female officers would have the same issues that the white male officers have. And it’s always the white male officers who are doing all of these shootings. And when I see the justifications in the news, I always get frustrated. ‘Rodney King was justifiable!’ Come on man, really?
On a meeting between cops and his young people
We recently had a cop chat at the BASE. The police commanders came in and brought a few police officers to get an opportunity to hear our youth about what they’re experiencing and it was a real open and honest discussion.
They wanted to let these kids know, ‘This is how I grew up. This is what happened. I didn’t have the perfect life, but now I’m the police.’
But at the end, after it was all said and done, it became, now it’s time to really take off the gloves. I know my kids well. I could tell by the way they were moving that there were some things that were unanswered.
So, I took the floor and told the cops that I appreciated their stories. They came in and told them some things that might bond them, but I said the kids want to know, ‘How can we stop getting shot by the police?’ And the police were like, ‘Wow.’ The kids got a chance to share their day-to-day issues.
On how his focus evolved from baseball to saving lives
We’re not a travel baseball program, we’re a baseball program that gets to travel, because we think it’s important for them to see different parts of the United States. And we give them a little history lesson when we get to those places.
The kids see beyond baseball. When we first started the Garfield Park Little League in 2008, it was because there was no baseball being played. We wanted to get a real strong team, but it became evident instantly that we need to do a lot more with our kids. They don’t have the resources that other kids do.
So, it became less about playing great baseball to saving our kids, because we lost one that first year to gun violence. We haven’t lost many and I attribute that to our kids being removed from some of the issues in the street. I think it gives them an excuse to pull away from some of their friends who are going in that different direction. They can say, ‘I have a game that day.’ And people tend to respect that. If you’re an athlete, you’re given a pass.