It was the second year the teams from the Baltimore Curriculum Project’s (BCP network of neighborhood conversion charter schools) played each other as part of the new Southeast Baseball League through Friends of Patterson Park. The League’s inaugural season was last spring after the Baltimore City Parks and Recreation department stopped its league.
For the record, HHA won for the second year, 20-5, but the score was hardly the point. Playing in the smaller baseball league for the neighborhoods’ elementary schools is a homerun for BCP’s robust afterschool programs. The League includes Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School and Patterson Park Public Charter and offers boys and girls in 3rd through 5th grades, fun and the chance to play baseball in one of the great baseball towns on diamonds in City parks – just like the HHA and WSA principals did as brothers growing up on the City’s West side.
Some of the loudest cheering during Thursday’s game came from Matt Hornbeck, HHA principal since 2003, and his younger brother Mark Gaither, WSA principal since 2005. For nearly two decades, they’ve served as principals at BCP schools less than two miles apart.
“The rivalry between HHA and WSA is great, brother versus brother, West Side Park versus South Side Park,” says Mark.
But the really great thing is the opportunities we can provide for all our students. The afterschool programs at HHA, WSA, and all the BCP schools provide child care to families, extra instructional time for teaching, and expanded experiences for kids. Everybody wins.
A Baltimore Baseball and City Schools’ Legacy
The brothers are seasoned veterans of Baltimore City Schools as students – they graduated from Baltimore City College – and noted educational leaders who hail from a family of educators.Their mother, attorney Becky Hornbeck, spent her career at the Baltimore Community Foundation working to improve Baltimore’s neighborhoods and public education.Father David Hornbeck was State Superintendent of Maryland’s Schools for 12 years and Superintendent of Philadelphia Public Schools for six years. He was instrumental in founding Strong Schools Maryland and worked tirelessly to form and shape the Kirwan Commission and fully fund the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.
Matt and Mark played in the Catonsville Little League in the 1970s, but never on the same team, though both had the same coach. Both stopped playing by high school, but their memories on the field are lasting – just as they hope they are for their students playing in the Southeast Baseball League.
Matt, a center fielder, admits that they harbored fleeting visions of major league success when they were boys. Matt’s team did make it to the playoffs. “I had a lifetime Little League batting average of .429 and played first base and center field,” says Matt. “My career ended without fanfare at age 12.”
Mark laughs that his career ended with him scoring the last out of his team’s last game by trying to steal second. (He contends that the coach told him to go.) “I had an okay arm to get it to home plate from center but an old college injury kept me from the majors,” he jokes. Not to be outdone, their father had a brief, shining stint in the Maryland State Department of Education softball league.
The two teams and brothers look forward to their next match-up on the baseball diamond and to the lifelong lessons of joy, determination, and teamwork that come with an afternoon playing baseball.
“Mark and I have a great sibling rivalry that is all in good fun,” adds Matt. “What a joy it is for our parents to see our schools competing and both doing so well. This year, HHA took the crown but there’s always next year!”