Meet The Corner's first-pitch kids, and see what Detroit means to them

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — They brought the vision and passion with their words.

Then they brought the heat with their arms.

Detroit News/Detroit PAL First Pitch Contest winners, from left: Mariah Webster, Timothy Abrams II, Jamar Dimbo, Jack Ropke, Caleb Wilson, Ja-vone Bectin, Mateo Gonzales and Cienna Bell.

Eight Metro Detroit children threw out ceremonial “first pitches” on a sunny Saturday at the hallowed ground that now is home to The Corner Ballpark, having won The Detroit News/Detroit Police Athletic League First Pitch Contest.

There were 16 finalists in all, four in each category — K-second grade, third-fifth grade, sixth-eighth grade and high school. Then, two winners were selected from each category. Each participant was asked to answer an essay question about the future of Detroit, and the responses were, to be sure, heartwarming.

Each finalist received a Detroit News prize pack of goodies, and each winner also will receive a commemorative, personalized brick to be placed at the entrance of The Corner Ballpark, PAL’s new, $21-million headquarters — on the site of Old Tiger Stadium — which was officially unveiled in a public celebration attended by nearly 2,000 on Saturday.

K-2 ESSAYS — If you were mayor and had the key to Detroit, what positive changes would you make?


Rieley Bamberger, 7, Sherwood Elementary, Saginaw

Rieley Bamberger

I would try to help kids pay for sports so everyone can play. My dad says I’m lucky to play sports because all kids don’t get to. I get to meet a new friends and it teaches me to listen. I would also make kids feel safe. I don’t feel safe, I was playing a hockey game and the arena went on lock down because there was a man with a gun. Me and my teammates were scared to go back in and play after the police arrested the man.

Zachary Moore, 7, Arno Elementary, Allen Park

Zachary Moore

I would have fun stuff that everyone could do together. I would have a big park where kids could play and have fun with their family. It would be a safe fun place where anyone could go and make new friends. I would have a toy box to bring toys that you don’t play with anymore, and you can bring them for kids who don’t have a lot of toys and they could take them home. There would be a baseball field and batting cages so we could play together. I would have hot dog carts on the street that you just go up and get one, and you don’t need money. All of these fun things in Detroit would be free, you just have to be nice and kind to one another.


Cienna Bell, 7, McIntyre Elementary, Southfield

Cienna Bell

My grandmother could not drive when she was alive. I would want to provide car rides to the doctor for people when they are hurt or sick. I would want the older kids to work with the younger kids so they grow up to be great leaders. I would create new laws that would help the city such as cleaning up litter. If someone is found throwing trash everywhere there punishment would be to go around and pick up everyone’s trash. There are still people that live outside of Detroit that think that Detroit is a bad place to be. I would want to build an amusement park (like Disney Land or World) in Detroit so that people that do not live in Detroit would want to come visit and have fun. Many restaurants in Detroit throw out lots of food at night. I would want to create a program so that the poor kids and homeless could get that food so they don’t go hungry. I love sports. I play soccer, baseball, softball & swim but there are a lot of kids that can’t afford to do sports. I would create a way so that the kids that don’t have any money could still play sports and enjoy it like I do. My grandmother lived in Woodbridge and there is a great baseball field near her. It would be great if everyone had a place to play like that.

Jack Ropke, 7, Gabriel Richard Elementary, Grosse Pointe Farms

Jack Ropke

If I was the Mayor of Detroit, I would start a program to renovate homes so families in the city could live a better life. I would also start an after-school tutoring program to help students succeed in the classroom and improve their test scores. I would ask the President of the United States for the funds to demolish the rundown abandoned old houses and schools, so new, clean, safe ones can be built. I would also raise money to fix up parks and playgrounds in neighborhoods around the city, so that kids can stay active, fit and healthy. I believe that if kids have safe places to live, learn and play, that will help them succeed in life.

3-5 ESSAYS — Detroit has seen a lot of exciting change. Tell us what the future of Detroit looks like to you.


Nicholas Cox, 8, Webster Elementary, Livonia

Nicholas Cox

I love Detroit. My mom has been taking me to Detroit since I was a baby. Through the years, I have seen improvements in the parking garages. There is very cool drawings and they are very colorful. I watched Little Caesars Arena being built. Through my eyes, Detroit’s trash filled fields will be turned into baseball fields where kids in the city can play at. I would love to help with this by cleaning, digging and planting new grass. I can help put in new dirt and bases and lines. I see families spending time together, having a picnic by the Detroit River. Homeless houses repaired with new glass windows and painting. The homeless people could help if we gave them what they needed to do it. The homeless dogs and people could live in the house so they would have each other and be happy. In the future, I see people from all over world wanting to come to Detroit.

Ryann Parker, 10, Erie Elementary, Clinton Township

Ryann Parker

Great fun, a lot more things to do. A big park like Cedar Point, so we don’t have to go out of town anymore and everyone will come here to have fun. And me and my family can come downtown every weekend and have a great time, oh ... and watch me be the best girl baseball player.


Timothy Abrams II, 10, home-schooled

Timothy Abrams II

The future of Detroit looks bright! In my vision, I can see new inventions, like flying pods, hoverboards and Q-lines similar to cars. I see new types of ziplines and gigantic glass buildings. I had a dream that I was making Detroit clean again! People came and helped us fix up my neighborhood, by helping me plant more trees, recycle old abandoned houses and create a nature habitat for animals. As I wrote this, I could see a plastic bag 24 feet high in a tree. In my future, there will be less litter and trash! In the future, we will have new improved submarines to find new marine creatures, especially colossal squid! With better technology, we will learn more about microbes and other animals. We will also have better places to play sports. Detroit will be the best city to live in with more fresh foods, no GMO foods and no killing people! In the future, I can still see grass, trees and nothing but nature in some spots. The future will still be similar to now, but with more awesome things!

Ja-vone Bectin, 8, University Preparatory Academy, Detroit

Ja-vone Bectin

Well let’s just say Detroit has made a great comeback over the years! I see Detroit being more of a family oriented city because of the things their putting up now such as rebuilding the Little Caesars Arena that has had over 10 concerts this year alone already, or what about how they have made the Detroit riverfront a whole new look, they made it look family friendly from the carousel to the little swan ride for that summertime fun! I love how they have been rebuilding our city by tearing down the abandoned house and rebuilding new ones which is bringing more diversed families to the inner city. Campus Martius has never looked more fuller in the summer with festivals that catches attention of all types of people ranging from all ages and race. I love riding downtown with my family and looking at the steady upcoming of this Great city. Our future Detroit is going to look even greater, by the time they are done rebuilding Detroit we are going to be the ultimate vacation spot, there are going to be so many people wanting to tour because we have a lot to offer, we have great history behind each and every building, home, lake, and statue. In the future there is going to be more concerts, more people coming to our baseball, football, basketball and hockey games from different cities and states, Detroit’s going to be more safer because of the effort our policemen and women are doing to stop the crimes and catch the criminals. Our future Detroit is going to have way more employment opportunities for people because now they are making the efforts of building more businesses so that the employment rate can go down, there is no doubt in my mind that 10 years from now Detroit will be on the list for one of the greatest comeback cities of all times! I can see myself being downtown or anywhere in the metro Detroit and feel so welcome at a business establishment, home, concert , athletic game , and or festival because as we begin to change our city for the better so are the people changing for the better. Also our future schools I think will be so much better far as the teachers, teaching style, the structure of the buildings as well as the students. Your gonna have more teachers wanting to teach, more students wanting to learn because the ways of society will no longer be how they use to with the criminalistic mind setting and actions that are going on. Future Detroit is going to be the “city of change” it’s going to be the “city of love” because right now there is a lot of hatred in our hearts because of our surrounding among us but as we rebuild and rejoice the change of Detroit will bring nothing but the love that once lived among us back In the future! So you ask me what do I think future Detroit would look like? I say our future will be looking bright and carefree, family-oriented and a place where you want to be!

6-8 ESSAYS — Detroit has seen a lot of exciting change. Tell us what the future of Detroit looks like to you.


Nikhil Kothari, 12, Bloomfield Hills Middle School

Nikhil Kothari

Detroit is an important place in America with many opportunities. In ten years, I envision Detroit as a strong and energetic city. This would be shown through improved safety, education for everyone at every level, and an economy that is strong with many jobs. An outcome of these improvements would be the higher standard of living with strong economic infrastructure. Youth development is the backbone of a more successful Detroit, because the youth are the future. They are the ones who can change Detroit and the world we live in. An important stride to make in youth development is the education in Detroit. Fueling children of the next generation with knowledge is the best gift an adult can give. This development could be shown through teaching material in a better way, and resulting in more thoughtful learners and leaders. Another improvement is that for any child who has the passion to play a sport, they will get the opportunity. This allows kids to gain experiences that they can only gain through sports like team building. The future of Detroit starts in the schools and playgrounds, and emerges to the world through the factories, stadiums, and theaters.

Aiyana Menzie, 14, Golightly Education Center, Detroit

The future in Detroit looks more cleaner. It will also be a go to place from people from different states. Abandoned houses will be gone and it will be a safe environment. In the future I would also like to see schools with new books, gyms and libraries. In the neighborhoods it should be rec centers open to anyone that would like to come for free. It also should be police officers patrolling the neighborhood from dangerous people that’s trying to harm other people. Also I think a certified police officer should be outside of schools in case a shooter tries to come in and harm people. I also think schools should have classes such as music, art and geometry. In addition, this is what I think the future of Detroit should look like.


Jamar Dimbo, 11, Pace Academy, Southfield

Jamar Dimbo

I imagine Detroit to be a city full of hope and dreams. Where families are rushing home and kids are playing safely on the street. Where driverless cars are dropping kids off at school. Where tall buildings are overlooking beautiful sports stadiums. I see black businesses creating wealth which will be passed on to future generations. Most importantly I see Detroit as the place I hope to make a name for myself on the field as I look up in the stands at Comerica Park at granddad’s proud face.

Mateo Gonzales, 13, St. Pius X Catholic School, Southgate

The future of Detroit is moving upwards. I see public fruit and vegetable gardens for the residents. I see more companies making it home to there headquarters bringing more jobs and revenue to the city. We need to make it easier for small business to thrive in detroit. Then they can generate more revenue for the city. There will be more public transportation like the Q-line. It will be as bussling as Chicago or Cleveland. I see the education system turned around with additional vocational training for graduates who want to enter the work force. All companies located in the city will have internship programs for 12th grade kids. People will be moving back to city, rebuilding homes and making the neighborhoods great again. Everyone wants our city to succeed and show the world that change is possible. Detroit will hold a Super Bowl at Ford Field and an All-Star Game at Comerica Park. The NAIAS will be bigger and better. That is how I see Detroit’s future.

9-12 ESSAYS — Detroit has seen a lot of exciting change. Tell us what the future of Detroit looks like to you.


Jordan Broomfield, 15, Birmingham Groves

Jordan Broomfield

The future of Detroit looks great. There will be less abandoned buildings. They will become new big nice houses and business buildings. There will be playgrounds for kids and parks for people to walk around in and play sports. People will be happy and feel good about where they live. There will be a lot of good schools for kids to learn in. There will be good public transportation. Crime rates will go down. That’s what I think the future of Detroit will look like.

Anika Mosley, 18, Detroit Cass Tech

Anika Mosley

As a young adult who has called the wonderful city of Detroit my home of 18 years, I find it truly disheartening to witness my city being portrayed as a mecca of crime, poverty and despair. I can attest that we must shatter the negative beliefs of the city and rise above those naysayers. The optimistic lenses I see Detroit through show the city returning to robust neighborhoods, flourishing businesses, people genuinely caring for each other, and city leaders who refuse to settle for failure being an option. Being a teenager, more importantly, an advocate of change, by the powers vested in me, I vow to play a crucial role in helping to ensure that Detroit return to its grandeur. I am astonished at the plethora of entities who share my vision for the city and want to enlist their efforts to beautify, invest in, and give testimonies to the flourishing revitalization of Detroit. We all have to take an active role in making Detroit’s renaissance a certainty. I have true admiration, inspiration, dedication and love for the city. The city has seen bad days, good days, better days, and now it is time to bear witness to its best days. I am steadfast in my journey of becoming a productive citizen and making positive contributions to my community. I believe in helping to make Detroit a better place to live, play, and work. By trusting and believing in the citizens, the city’s rebirth will certainly be a fruitful effort.


Mariah Webster, 14, Detroit Cass Tech

Mariah Webster

The future of Detroit will be more nostalgic with more parks and recreation in the neighborhoods. Detroit will be a place where people from around the world would come to not only visit but to live. My neighbors will be diverse. I will be able to ask them to come outside and play, ride bikes, play tag, walk to the corner store and feel safe. Like “back in the day,” as my parents would say. The homeless will be off the streets, abandoned houses will be torn down or occupied with beautiful landscapes and no blowing trash or broken glass. Our schools that were closed will be back open. Kids will want to attend without the fear of being bullied or stereotyped. Everyone will come together as one to make a peaceful and colorful environment. I will be able to walk down the streets in my community and see happiness and joy. I will be shopping and eating at all different types of places and restaurants not only downtown but down the road from my home too. I see Detroit being the place to be and not the place to avoid. When I go play volleyball in different states I’m always asked, “Where are you from?” I will be able to stand straight with my head held high feeling proud and reply, “I’m from Detroit!”

Caleb Wilson, 14, Southfield A&T

Caleb Wilson

What the future of Detroit looks like to me is simple: it’s EXCITING! With all the new and fun changes like PAL’s new home,the skate park and my favorite restaurant Shake Shack makes life exciting to me because I have great things to look forward to after school or on the weekend to keep me and my friends busy. When there are exciting things to do in your own city it makes everyone want to join the change and give back to the city, which will give back to my peers, the cities youth, the cities future. So to me the change in Detroit looks exciting, fun and brighter. It looks like the cities that I would see in magazines or that I would visit with my mom. Our city Detroit is now the city that I see in magazines, it’s the city that millions see and now want to be apart of. Now if that’s not an exciting change for Detroit, tell me what is. That’s what the future of Detroit looks like to me, the place where everyone wants to be.