Bruce Charlebois came to Parkland 20 years ago with a dream in mind: to open a school for baseball. Drafted by the New York Yankees in 1987, Charlebois had a career ending knee injury. The injury may have ended his career but not his love nor devotion for the sport. His passion for the sport led him to start a baseball camp, South Florida Baseball School (SFBS), for kids that has developed into a school that would train kids for college and even the Major League Baseball Draft.
In 2005, Charlebois’ school also became a ministry for Christ. Taking a position as baseball coach at Highlands Christian Academy, Charlebois moved his baseball camp and school to their fields, and that’s where the ministry took off.
“Bruce doesn’t just teach baseball; he teaches character and the gospel,” said Michelle Charlebois, Bruce’s wife and Camp Coordinator. “Most kids that come here aren’t believers… and it’s amazing to think something they love is now a ministry for them.”
This program has had many of their kids go onto great things: Andrew Gottfried of Calvary Christian Academy now pitches High Point University, Ryan Morse of Coral Springs Christian School now pitches at Wake Forest, and Zack Kone of Pinecrest School is now an infielder at Duke University. One of the missions for the SFBS players is that they learn the skills they need to improve in high school and go on to play in college. That doesn’t only mean baseball skills, as Bruce and Michelle both acknowledge that they are still called to make disciples. They are dedicated to ensuring that the kids grow up and practice in a Christ-like environment in order to progress the gospel.
More than just baseball and Christ, this is a program that focuses on the kids, inspiring them to do better in their personal and social lives as well as their spiritual life. The kids want to do better and their dedication shows.
About 150 families participate in the program each year, some with as many as four kids involved. However, some don’t always get involved the traditional route.
Isaac Domingus, a 14-year-old who lived near the school, was often seen watching the baseball practices from the bleachers outside the fields. He would come every day and watch the school practice and play. Finally, Bruce Charlebois invited him over to practice with them.
“Isaac was not great with school, did not live in the best neighborhood, and didn’t have the best friends. Now, however, he has great friends in this school, will be attending Highlands in the fall, and has been offered to skip a grade.” For Isaac, it seemed that the baseball school was a God send for him, and he treated it that way.
Isaac hasn’t missed a day since he joined, and has even shown up to practice when there was no scheduled practice. He hopes to continue through high school with baseball and eventually get drafted. Indeed, Isaac is definitely on the right track so far.
The South Florida Baseball School has also opened its arms to home school students. Students have a chance to play with other homeschoolers and learn about the game of baseball. There are currently about four teams in the league, and they play every Tuesday and Thursday.
When Charlebois needed another coach, he found Marc and Janis Carpiniello, a homeschool couple who love baseball.
The home school program “started by going to an American Heritage Girls (AHG) meeting and asking all the brothers who weren’t doing anything if they wanted to play baseball,” said Marc. There are now about 50 home school students in the home school league for ages 5 to 8 and 10 to 12.
In this league, there is one special team.
The name for one special team was inspired by a devotional on the last day of summer camp. It was based on a familiar verse, Matthew 4:19 which states “Jesus called out to them, ‘Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” (NLT).
“It wasn’t unusual for me to see notes in this devotional, as it was Bruce’s before mine,” said Marc. When he opened it to prepare for the last day of camp, there on the bottom of the page was written “Anglers,” and he instantly knew that would be the name for his home school team.
The Anglers are very serious about baseball. Although they are younger, they have a passion for the sport and after God’s own Heart. At each practice they pick a scripture for the day that reminds them why they play the sport: not for them, but for Him.
To get involved, visit www.southfloridabaseballschool.com.
Geoffrey Still is an intern with Good News, student editor of Calvary Christian Academy’s SOAR.ccaeagles.org and founder of the “Crusader Corner” at Coral Springs Christian Academy.