Cricket team teaches sportsmanship in Compton

What looks like a weird game of baseball is really the game of cricket and its being played in Compton. The Homies & POPz, a local Compton team, has traveled around the world competing against more experienced players. Their matches can be challenging, but so is their bigger goal: giving young people a positive alternative to gangs and violence in Compton and South Los Angeles.

Cricket, formally nicknamed “the gentleman’s game”, is a bat and ball sport that originated in England in the early 16th century.

The Homies & POPz have received funding through sponsorships from various companies including Prudential Life Insurance, BUM Equipment, Tommy Boy Records and more.

In 1995, The Homies & POPz, originally called the LA Krickets, began to play at the Dome Village community for the homeless in Downtown Los Angeles. When the team was created by Ted Hayes, a homeless activist, and Katy Haber, a film producer, neither of them knew that it would grow into what it has become today.

imageHaber, who enjoyed the game of cricket, needed an extra player for a random weekend game and called upon Hayes, a fellow volunteer at the Dome Village. A newcomer to the game, Hayes stepped onto the field for his first time and began a love affair with cricket.

“I went out and played with the team and liked what I saw,” said Hayes. “But more importantly I liked the etiquette of the game and saw it as a tool to help change peoples lives.”

He came up with the idea to bring the game to the homeless community to teach the its members sportsmanship.

Shortly there after, the first all homeless and all-American cricket team was born and they began touring the world beginning with England.

In 1996, Haber and Hayes decided to expand their horizons and bring the game to Compton where they thought young people could benefit from the game that teaches proper etiquette and sportsmanship. They began by teaching a workshop on how to play the game at Willowbrooke Middle School. Some of those students grew up on the team and are still active on the green grassy fields. They love to play, but they also enjoy helping change the city’s negative reputation.

“We have given Compton in the last 15 years very good publicity,” said Hayes.

Team member Sergio Pinales has been playing the sport since 1997 and said that at first , he had never seen anything like it before.

“I like how they catch with their bare hands and not use gloves,” said Pinales, while taking a break during the game. “It was one of those things that caught my eye.”

Pinales, who grew up playing baseball in his front yard with his bare hands, says that cricket quickly became second nature.

“The thing that took the cake was that they told me that I could hit the ball in a 360 degree angle anywhere you want,” said Pinales. “That’s what sold me right there; I could hit anywhere on the field.”

Today the diverse group of men plays together in weekly Sunday matches at Woodley Park in Burbank.

The team has won the British Cup twice and a trophy from The LA Social Cricket League. In addition to this, the hub city team toured the United Kingdom in 1997, 1999 and 2001 sponsored by organizations such as British Petroleum, Channel 4,, Lashings and Maxim Magazine.

The Homies & POPz just recently traveled in February to play down under in Australia against local and university teams in Melbourne and Sydney.

“It was a great thing to go to Australia,” said Hayes. “But it has to happen more. It has to expand more and we need to get more of these young men involved and that is going to take funds.”

Haber says the Los Angeles Police Department has reached out to the team and wants them to teach them how to play the game in hopes to assist in their counter-terrorism program within the Muslim communities.

“We are just trying to open the eyes of people and tell them look there’s more to life than just gangsters out here,” said Pinales. “What we are trying to do is something for the future. Anything to make a positive step for anybody and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”