Redbird Rookies, a baseball league for boys and girls age five to thirteen, is sponsored by Cardinals Care, the community foundation of the Louis Cardinals professional baseball team. The program, started in 2004, provides children with uniforms, gloves, bats, balls, and other equipment, as well as extensive off-field support in the areas of health, education, mentoring, and cultural arts.
The DMH Athletic Trainers provide the health component of the program through screenings, physicals, and health and nutrition information. Decatur Park District helps provide staff resources, as well as baseball diamonds in the local parks for use by the teams.
Redbird Rookies has 20 leagues, serving nearly 4,500 kids in the St. Louis/Metro area, and parts of rural Missouri and Illinois who otherwise might not have had the chance to play. The Decatur league was started in 2008.
On July 25, 2017, DMH, the Decatur Park District, and President of the St. Louis Cardinals Bill DeWitt III unveiled the Dexter Fowler Field in Decatur at Hess Park, home to the Decatur Redbird Rookies.
Rawlings, a major contributor and supporter of Cardinals Care, donates and discounts most of the equipment and uniforms for any child who wants to play in Redbird Rookies. In addition, Cardinals Care provides training so that coaches and organizers can learn innovative coaching/character building techniques that are essential to the program. Parents also take part in workshops that teach the philosophy of the league so that there is support on every level.
Players are encouraged to read over the summer and have opportunities to win individual prizes such as a backpack and school supplies or team prizes such as being in a drawing for a chance to play a game at Busch Stadium or to have a practice with a current Cardinals player.
Central to Redbird Rookies is instructional play. Keeping score and winning are secondary to the life lessons that can be learned as part of a team on the ball field. Redbird Rookies works to instill the values of teamwork, integrity, self-esteem and leadership in the “classroom” of a baseball setting.