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Must-click link: How little league baseball has transfomed Camden, New Jersey

May 13, 2014, 5:02 PM EDT


GQ has a long read by Kathy Dobie about Little League baseball’s role in the revival of downtrodden Camden, New Jersey. Transforming drug turf to baseball fields and former gang bangers and dealers into coaches and fans:

“When an addict tries to enter the park, [North Camden Little League founder Bryan Morton] blocks his path. ‘The park is for kids and their families today,’ Bryan says. The man looks flummoxed. ‘Where am I supposed to go?’ There’s absolutely no light in Bryan’s eyes when he says, ‘Not my problem.’ What incenses Bryan is that the children of North Camden are invisible to men like this. They must be, because how else could these junkies decide, again and again, that it’s okay to shoot up in front of 5-year-olds on slides, toddlers plucking at the grass?”

“Bryan’s philosophy in a nutshell: Don’t let circumstances dictate your behavior. Reverse that dynamic. Fill the parks with kids and families and eventually the junkies and the dealers will drift away. Pretend that you live in a safe place and maybe it will become one.”

Obviously it’s more complicated than that, but it’s a great read about people doing what they can.


  1. krypticking - May 13, 2014 at 6:32 PM

    Camden is an awful city. Never thought I’d see any progression with it.

  2. Innocent Bystander - May 13, 2014 at 7:30 PM

    Good for GQ getting a “story” out of this, but unfortunately from nearby suburbia I see no signs of revival in Camden.

  3. mustbechris - May 13, 2014 at 7:53 PM

    I hope you both read this before you commented on it. This story is fantastic, thank you for posting it.

    • zengreaser - May 13, 2014 at 8:30 PM

      It’s going to take more than Little League to turn around a city that dukes it out year in and year out with Detroit for Most Dangerous (murders per capita) City in America. I’m not trying to be a downer, it’s just a fact. I live 15 minutes away & I know just how bad it is there.

      • Innocent Bystander - May 13, 2014 at 9:04 PM

        That was basically the point of my original comment as well (I’m local too). I read the article. It was fine as far as a feel good story goes. Good for the Little League for creating anything positive in Camden. But I am doubtful that this is the catalyst for turning the city around. I would love for the writer to be correct, but to say this is the inspiration for a revival is either naïve or propaganda.

      • mustbechris - May 13, 2014 at 10:18 PM

        Fair enough on both accounts. It’s nice to hear that something – anything – is going on like this though. The writer is a bit over the top with the feel good/underdog nature of the story she is pushing, but on facts alone they’re really doing something amazing. As far as I’m concerned, if they’re keeping just one person from going down the wrong path – and doing it all for no profit, just because they want to save some kids from making decisions they made – then it’s a rousing success.

      • krypticking - May 14, 2014 at 8:40 AM

        Same, I live outside in cherry hill. Man, it’s no joke. Only reason to go there is drugs or if you have a death wish.

  4. afrancis55 - May 13, 2014 at 8:46 PM

    Maybe they outta try something like this with East St Louis, IL and Gary, Indiana. Those two places are just as terrible, if not worse as Camden.

  5. mungman69 - May 14, 2014 at 2:54 AM

    Hey, I was born in Camden and raised in Burlington Township, N., J. My wife grew up in Camden (Honest). That city is still the pit. All the jobs left and all that’s left is drugs and VERY CROOKED POLITIONS.
    I wish these ballplayers all the luck.

  6. numbskull111 - May 14, 2014 at 7:26 AM

    Good article.

    One of the comments included a link to a documentary they are doing about this:


  7. macjacmccoy - Aug 18, 2014 at 2:16 AM

    Yea little league is not pushing out drug dealers. Camden’s politicians and cops were probably the most corrupt in the country. I think like 5 consecutive mayors went to jail for corruption. Chris Christie and his administration got fed up and pressured camden’s leaders into turning over its police force. They did so by disbanding the police force all together. Allowing Christie to give the city to the new Jersey state troopers.

    Now there is 3x as many police in Camden then there were previously. The camden pd allowed 100’s of open aired drug markets to set up and would usually only run dealers off the corners once a week. In fact it was so predictable everyone in the city and surrounding suburbsknew when it was going to happen. Everyone called it “Task Force Tuesday”. You knew as long as you avoided north camden tuesday morning the odds of getting g caught with drugs were slim to say the least.

    Now though that is no longer the case. Because the state troopers aren’t based out of camden, and their funding doesn’t come from camden, the corruption and in competence that plagued the camden pd doesn’t effect them. They are able to do there job without local officials holding them back. No longer can drug dealers occupy every corner and sell drugs with little threat of being arrested. The state troopers run them off everyday mulittle times a day.

    They do so by giving out loitering tickets. Because nearly all of camden is a posted drug zone you can not stand on a spot for more then a few minutes unless your at your home or at your job. They wait and time you, if you cant prove your suppose to be there then you get a ticket. This isn’t some new law either police forces around the country can do this but I guess are to incompetent to realize it.

    Now though camden’s drug dealers are forced to sell on the move. Which means they have to carry their drugs on them and can no longer sell from a stash, like they could when they were on the corners. This has led to more arrests and more criminals off the streets. Which in turn has led to a steep decline of violent crimes in the city.

    So saying little league had something to do with transforming the city might be over selling it just a bit. In all honesty I have no problem with a feel good story. As long as it doesn’t over shadow and devalue the good work of the people who are finally making a real differences in the city.

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