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Mariners youth mentorship program making an impact beyond baseball

McKenzie Mitchell, a Mariners Hometown Nine mentor, says the program has given her purpose and "so much more hope."

This story was produced in conjunction with the Mindful Headlines podcast, which explores how our psychology intersects with current events. Listen to LaKesha Kimbrough share on the podcast tips for finding mentorship opportunities and becoming a great mentor. Watch the conversation with Kimbrough on YouTube.

The Mariners have had an incredible run in the second half of the 2021 regular season. But when it comes to the sport of baseball, the team is looking far beyond this season through a new mentorship program for kids.

During the pandemic, the Seattle Mariners launched Hometown Nine, a five-year mentorship program for elite student-athletes. The organization aims to make baseball and softball more equitable and accessible to youths, including through financial assistance.

“We obviously want them to be baseball and softball players. We want them to do well, but to me, that’s the least important part of the program. We care more about who they are as individuals and their development,” said McKenzie Mitchell, who spearheaded the creation of Hometown Nine in July 2020.

The Hometown Nine is part of the Mariners’ On BASE (Baseball and Softball Everywhere) initiative. It provides programs for young people of different races, gender identities, sexual organization and physical ability.

“It was a big project,” Mitchell said. “I say this all the time – it’s the most meaningful thing I’ve been able to do with my career here at the Mariners.”

The entire Seattle Mariners organization participates in mentoring kids, including front office staff and the players.

Mitchell is a mentor herself. Her mentee, or “fellow” as the program calls it, is Tycean Martin, who started Hometown Nine in 2020 as part of the inaugural class. He’s now a freshman in high school.

“The mentors have helped me a lot,” said Martin. “I came here a couple weeks ago. I was a little nervous for high school and they talked me through it. McKenzie has been really helpful.”

Martin is an elite youth baseball player who’s overcome a lot of adversity. Martin was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. He’s undergone 22 medical procedures, including four open heart surgeries.

Mitchell says her relationship with Martin has changed her.

“For me personally it’s given me so much more hope,” Mitchell said. “It’s given me more purpose, and frankly it’s made me feel better about going to work every day.”

Mentorship can undoubtedly have positive benefits, said LaKesha Kimbrough, who spearheads mentorship programs for Seattle University and has taught seminars for the Hometown Nine.

“Connection and relationship, we crave those things as humans,” explains Kimbrough. “Even if it is once a week or once a month, having meaningful, healthy [and] deep connection with folks really does enrich our emotional health, our physical health and our mental health.”

In a previous episode of the Mindful Headlines podcast, listen to Fred Rivera, executive vice president and general counsel for the Mariners, talk about the team’s ongoing work with social and youth programs, promoting minority-owned business at the park and the team’s responsibility to the entire Pacific Northwest community. 

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