Nate Nolan wrapped up his normal workday 12 hours earlier, spending the last 2 1/2 hours of that day in a catcher’s crouch for the minor-league Birmingham Barons.

A couple of hours before he was due back at Regions Field to begin the workday anew, Nolan and teammate Blake Rutherford spent a recent morning tossing rubber baseballs, taking Polaroids with students and running a spirited Red Light/Green Light game at the YWCA of Central Alabama in downtown Birmingham

“I’m usually up by now,” Nolan said. “But I’m normally taking this time to relax and clear my head. When the Barons asked if we were interested in coming here, I signed up. It’s good to break up the daily routine when you play 140 games a year.”

At the YWCA, they found an enthused audience of students participating in the Summer Adventures In Learning (or SAIL) program, which is designed to keep children learning in a safe, nurturing environment.

Program Coordinator Jondra Caddell said SAIL students are pretested at the start of the program, then tested again at the end, before returning to school to measure how much they’re retained from spring classes and how much they’ve advanced heading into the fall.

“Sometimes we see up to two-month gains in learning,” Caddell explained.

The Double-A players from the Chicago White Sox affiliate told the campers about their careers before leading them in games.

Focusing on STEM courses, SAIL aims to ensure academic retention while instilling the love for academics in children from underserved communities.

“I’ve gotten better in math and science since I got here,” said Morgan Joshua, a seventh grader at the urban Phillips Academy. “Some of the stuff we’ve learned was stuff I didn’t know when I finished sixth grade. Now, I feel like I have a jump start on next year.”

Students also enjoy gym time and field trips during the summer sessions. But the chance to grow academic curiosity attracts parents to fill the openings each summer in a program that’s been entrenched at the Central YWCA for almost two decades.

Regions is a longtime supporter of the SAIL summer learning network – and the namesake of the Barons’ home, Regions Field.  SAIL campers received Regions swag from associates, which included the instant photos with the ballplayers, pens and fidget spinners.

I’ve gotten better in math and science since I got here…I feel like I have a jump start on next year.
Morgan Joshua, SAIL student

As it turned out, spending some downtime with the students wasn’t a bad way to start the day for these Barons.

Each camper received a Polaroid photo as a keepsake of the day.

“Routine is everything to a ballplayer,” said Rutherford, who went 2-for-4 in a shutout victory of the Chattanooga Lookouts the night before. “It’s the routine that keeps you going on and off the field. But my day doesn’t really start until I get to the field at 1:30. So this is a fun way to get away for a few hours.”