2022 Amazing Kids - Portland
School: Ida B. Wells-Barnett High School
HE’S AMAZING: In addition to supporting his peer athletes, Armstrong coaches middle schoolers in his local Junior Baseball Organization.
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COMMUNITY THROUGH BASEBALL
The crack of a bat against a ball is music to Roland Armstrong’s ears. The Portland high schooler started playing T-ball when he was about 5 years old. He’s played baseball nearly his whole life.
“They had me try a lot of sports when I was young,” Armstrong said of his parents. “Baseball was always the sport I found most joyous.”
When he’s not playing, he’s rooting for the Seattle Mariners or cheering on his peers.
Armstrong, 17, is a senior at Ida B. Wells-Barnett High School in Southwest Portland. He plays varsity baseball, in addition to keeping good enough grades in school to be offered a scholarship at Boston College, his “dream school.”
After graduating, he plans to attend the private university, majoring in finance with a pre-law track.
And when he’s not at varsity practices for The Guardians team at Wells-Barnett High, you can still find him on a baseball diamond.
Armstrong coaches middle schoolers with the Junior Baseball Organization. The program is an offshoot of Little League but offers more competitive play geared toward middle school students. The Portland teen recalled his days in JBO, noting he wanted others to have the same experience and opportunity he did.
“When I was a freshman I was pretty close with some of the coaches,” Armstrong said. “They had coached us when we were in middle school. On the weekends I started helping out with one of the teams and then obviously with coronavirus, there was no high school or JBOC in 2020. I missed baseball a lot.”
The following fall, the organization’s president let on that the program was severely lacking coaches. In fact, there was no one available to coach the three teams Junior Baseball had lined up, Armstrong said.
“It really bothered me because it’s not fair for them and not fair to the program long term for them not to have the same middle school experience we had,” Armstrong said.
He wrangled a few other varsity baseball players from Wells-Barnett High to help coach for Junior Baseball.
“We felt it was important for them to be given that opportunity,” Armstrong said of the junior players. He said he sees the value in helping out his community, which is also a long-term investment in the program.
The junior baseball players who compete now will gain the experience and skills to come back someday, and coach like Armstrong did. Beyond that, Armstrong sees the intrinsic value and “life lessons” that team sports can offer.
“I greatly enjoy it. Baseball is just a source of happiness for me. But also, the high school program has given me and us so much in terms of experiences and lifelong skillsets that are even applicable outside of baseball,” Armstrong said. “It’s important to me that that continues for kids in the area. Making sure the middle school and high school teams are seamless and sort of integrated is important.”
His joy and dedication aren’t limited to baseball. Armstrong, who primarily pitches, admits he hopes to help lead The Guardians to a Portland Interscholastic League title this year – something his high school team hasn’t won in nearly a decade. But he hasn’t lost sight of the precious few weeks left in his senior year.
“I very much enjoy going to school every day,” the teen said. “I still find a lot of happiness in (school.) I’m not ready to say I’m done with things and only look forward to college. I’ve got so much going on right now. We’re looking to win a PIL title for the first time since 2013 and that requires commitment every day not just on the field, but in the classroom.”