by Tom Schoenfelder
Most days, I complain about how boring life can be. This wasn’t one of those times. It all began with a trip to a baseball mecca on Memorial Day. One of my best friends from back home moved up to the Boston area, so I planned a trip to go see my hometown Phillies play the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park; the stadium exceeded my expectations.
Before my only thoughts on the stadium were about the awkward foul pole and giant wall. However, visiting it was closer to being at a museum or castle than actually watching a baseball game. There was something about its old-school atmosphere that made it feel less corporate than other ballparks I’ve been to.
The next part of my week long adventure included a 6 am, Thursday morning flight to Dallas, then a three hour drive to the tornado-impacted area of Moore, Oklahoma. Once I arrived in Moore, I immediately started helping in the relief efforts, knowing that the day would be cut short because of the impending thunderstorms.
My responsibilities included clearing out debris from homes and dragging it to the street. While volunteering gave me a warm feeling inside, yet it was depressing to see the possessions these families had worked for their entire lives, demolished in a blink of an eye. The most shocking realization for me was seeing one home virtually fine and its neighboring home, which only had the foundation left. As I expected, the thunderstorm cut my day short and caught a ride back to the volunteer headquarters in the back of a pick-up.
I arrived at the hotel and get two steps in front of my room when the siren goes off. I ran downstairs to the hotels conference center and hungout with the hundreds of FEMA and Red Cross people, until they told us that the tornado never came close to hitting us, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
The next day I woke up and help with the recovery efforts again. Someone found an old baseball card and baseball when clearing out what used to be a shed and placed it on a table, so I had to take a picture of it.
As the day progressed, we all caught wind that another large tornado was going to happen, so the day ended early again. This gave me time to explore the town I was staying in, Norman, Oklahoma. I walked around the OU campus and saw what appeared to be a baseball themed restaurant. The place was called Diamond Dogs and specialized in, as you’d expect, hot dogs. I went with the “Wonder Boy” - a corndog with Captain Crunch in the breading. I’ll be taking a trip back to Oklahoma for those hot dogs. While at dinner, I asked the guy if we’ll get hit by the tornado: His response, “Norman never gets hit”. Good call.
At this point, I felt great and looked forward to heading back to the hotel to write this blog entry. I turned on the TV, only to see another storm starting to head my way. I do the only logical thing, walk down to the hotel bar and strike up a conversation with the guy next to me, who was from Oklahoma. He said the best thing to do is to drive south and avoid the tornado, which led me to ask why he was still at the hotel. He said he didn’t have his truck, so I told him he was in luck. About this time, I regretted not getting the sports car as my rental. The alarm goes off, and when hundreds of people from the hotel start walking back to conference room, we leave.
It’s the calm before the storm, and there’s an eerie feeling as I start driving south. We stop off at a town about 20 miles south where the tornado wasn’t predicted to hit. Wrong. The owner of the bar where we stopped gets a phone calling saying we should leave. We walk outside as the sirens start blaring and people start running. The closest thing I could compare it to would be a Godzilla movie, where everyone is looking up and there’s a sense of panic. Dark clouds split the evening sky like a black and white cookie. We start driving away from the tornado’s direction, down a road with a closed road sign. I get to the dead end. I get out to relinquish my bladder on a tree when the owner of the cattle ranch invites us inside. We walk inside, have a cup of coffee and watch as the storm starts to pass. Once the brunt of the storm misses us, I drive safely back to the hotel. There, we return only to find that there was no reason to leave; the building was fine. Everyone in the hotel acted like nothing happened, while I got back from the adventure with a story of a lifetime.
by David Rhode
For those that follow Pitch In For Baseball, you know that helping communities impacted by a natural disaster is something we take great pride in and something we’ve become quite adept at doing. Our work in New Jersey and New York helping groups impacted by Hurricane Sandy continues to grow. What started as an effort to help a few leagues in Oceanside, Island Park and Bayonne has ballooned into an initiative which will see us helping 25 programs and over 9,500 kids.
Word of our organization and our ability to make a difference has spread through word-of-mouth and the media. Both CBS News York and The New York Times give an example of the real impact we are making in these communities.
While new applications for assistance continue to roll in, the countdown towards Opening Day grows nearer. We are thrilled to have played a small role in this process. We can’t wait to hear those magical words “play ball” ring out through communities all over the NJ and NY area.
by David Rhode
Bryan Donaldson, Senior Director of Community Relations for the Minnesota Twins, recently described Pitch In For Baseball as the Red Cross of Baseball. It put a smile on my face because we take great pride in helping youth baseball communities in their times of greatest need.
On Wednesday, February 13 we really did feel like the Red Cross of Baseball. That day, our operations manager, Tom Schoenfelder, drove a truck full of gear and uniforms from Harleysville, PA to Long Island, NY to meet the smiling and warm faces of the volunteers and children of Oceanside and Island Park Little Leagues. Together, he and I offloaded boxes, Red Cross style into the arms of the league administrators and parents whose leagues lost everything in Hurricane Sandy.
When you drive up to both field complexes, you are immediately struck by one thing…the water is REALLY close. At Oceanside, the water is about 10 feet behind the outfield fence forming their own youth baseball version of McCovey Cove. Great when a kid hits a homer, bad when a Hurricane and rising tides hits your town. At Island Park, the same scene exists…water creating a scenic backdrop in the near distance toward right field. Except on October 29, 2012 those waters got a lot closer. In fact over 5 feet of water covered their entire field complex and filled their equipment sheds.
But this past Wednesday was a different story, a story of hope and renewal. Many of these families are still not back into their homes. But on this day, they could feel a sense of comfort at least knowing that their children would be able to take the fields this spring when Little League season begins. Their smiling faces tell the real story of the day.
Pitch In For Baseball’s President, former MLB all-star Roy Smalley III, puts it this way, “as communities get on their feet it’s important to restore a sense of normalcy and nothing is more normal than youngsters taking the baseball fields in the Spring. We hope helping replacing some of the baseball equipment that was lost will allow these people to focus upon rebuilding their lives.”
Oceanside and Island Park represent the first chapter of an evolving story. Over the next few weeks, we will have the privilege to deliver much needed equipment and uniforms to Bayonne, Bayshore, North Merrick, Rockaway and East Rockaway. They all share a similar story in regards to the effects of Hurricane Sandy. They all share a deep gratitude for the donations they are about to receive.
We’d like to take full credit for the items they receive, but in truth Pitch In For Baseball is merely the product of the generous donations that we receive. Kids doing Bar Mitzvah projects, leagues making equipment and financial donations, manufacturers sending things our way. They all add up and they enable us to respond when called up. Do we respond like the Red Cross…I guess so. Unlike the Red Cross, however, we deliver joy and we’re ok with that.
For those want to learn more please visit http://www.pitchinforbaseball.org/html/. We’d love for you to join our team. Maybe you want to start and equipment collection in your community or make a financial contribution to help out our Sandy Relief initiative. You could also text “give gloves” to 80088 to donate $10 (normal text messaging rates apply).
The plan was to update the Uganda donation each step of the way. However, the only time I’ve had to sit down and blog has been at the beginning and end of the project. Here’s a recap of the events that transpired…
Around day 8, equipment started to go into boxes. You may be wondering why it took a week before equipment was packed. Because of the influx of donations that poured in, there was barely enough space to walk let alone have 4 foot boxes staged in the warehouse. Once some of the boxes were arranged, the equipment that had been recently donated piled into boxes. Before I knew it I had boxes completely filled and it seemed as though this project would go on without a hitch.
Day 13, handyman extraordinaire Wladek came out to help set up the forklift battery charger. We attempted to work the forklift but what we found was that the thing could move the forks up and down and the machine itself didn’t move. On the surface this sounds like a problem, however with some engineering genius we figured out a way to get pallets stacked on top of each other.
With Thanksgiving looming and the pick up date slated for Monday the 26th, day number 20 had been circled on my calendar as the day to be done. Tuesday the 20th began great and 13 hours and one pizza later the equipment was finally packed. The donation consisted of over 6,000 pieces of equipment and about 200 manpower hours. It is our largest single donation ever and more than likely the largest ever.
Day 26, container drop off day. The plan was put all of the boxes onto a 20 ft container and would take 20 minutes and be no problem. Then the container showed. The truck that the container was attached to made it a foot higher than our floor. It was more than a minor speed bump. Unless we had superhuman strength, the boxes were not making it onto the container. The solution was drawn up to have a truck pick up the boxes and transport it to a different warehouse that could load the boxes onto the container. And at 7 o’clock on day 29 the boxes were picked up. Done.
by Tom Schoenfelder
November 1st marked the first day of what will be a month long project to help more children in Uganda play baseball.
The team from Uganda that played in the Little League World Series this past August brought national attention to their need of baseball equipment. The plan is to fill a 20 ft. container with equipment like helmets, gloves,balls, bats, etc. and ship it over. To give you an idea of the magnitude of this donation, we can pack up what we call a starter kit filled with everything one team needs in a box that is 20 inches x 20 in x 20 in.
Friday morning began with the arrival of the forklift that we’ve appropriately nicknamed the Dharma Initiative for its retro appearance. The 30 second explanation on the forklift by Dunne the guy who dropped it off went a little like this…
- keep your hands inside of the forklift because you will lose them
- if it catches fire hit this lever because it disengages the battery
- if you don’t pick something up centered it will fall and you’ll get hurt
- when charging make sure it’s in a well ventilated area because they can blow up
by David Rhode
For any of you who’ve followed Pitch In For Baseball you already know what I’m about to say. I don’t know where we’d be without the support of families and primarily boys getting involved with us as part of their Bar Mitzvah.
For those who may not know, a Bar Mitzvah (male) or Bat Mitzvah (female) is a rite of passage in the Jewish faith where at the age of 13 you become accountable for your actions and part of the adult community. In practical terms it normally means you have an awesome party and get a lot of gifts.
In conjunction with a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, the young person is many times required to do a “Mitzvah project”. A Mitzvah is a act of kindness. This normally materializes into the young person getting involved with some cause or charity that has personal meaning to them.
Fortunately for Pitch In For Baseball (PIFB), a lot of 13 year old boys care deeply about baseball. In our seven+ year history, literally hundreds of boys (and a few girls) have chosen Pitch In For Baseball for their Mitzvah project. In most cases the young person will conduct an equipment collection in their league or in the synagogue. However in recent years, many young people have also started to fundraise on behalf of PIFB. This is actually quite simple in this era of online fundraising. Kids can create their own PIFB affiliated fundraising webpage. They email this link to friends and relatives and then off we go.
I’m rarely surprised by the results anymore. Kids and their network of supporters are very caring and generous. But I have to say that I was caught off guard in the case of Murray Lebovitz. Murray is from Tennessee and while the results are not yet complete, he has raised the bar on fundraising for us to new heights. Through this morning, he has raised almost $8,000 to benefit our organization and kids we serve. It’s simply awesome.
In practical terms, Murray and his efforts will help fund an entire 4 team league with new equipment. That’s a little more than a Mitzvah. In baseball terms, that’s a grand slam.
Invariably when a child has a giving heart and a desire to help others, you need look no further than the parents to see where it comes from. Obviously Murray’s folks have made it clear that helping others is not just a requirement, it’s what we do.
A Mitzvah is not just an obligation or a box to check on your way to your Bar Mitzvah reception. It’s both a responsibility and a privilege. Murray Lebovitz and his family have set the new standard for our organization. Pitch In For Baseball and the children we serve as so glad that they did.
by David Rhode
Last summer the Little League baseball team from Uganda captured their first victory in the regional qualifier to gain eligibility for the Little League World Series. However, due to an inability to provide proper documentation to the State Department, the group was not able to secure travel visas and could not come to Williamsport to play.
During this last year, the Uganda Little League has put the disappointment of the 2011 events behind them and set their sights once again on becoming the first African team to play in the Little League World Series. Just last week, Lugazi Little League from Lugazi, Uganda, won the Middle East and Africa regional Monday, 5-2 over Kuwait City LL from Kuwait.
Lugazi is located in the southeastern area of the landlocked country, about 31 miles east of the capital city of Kampala. The Lugazi LL is one of five chartered ones in Uganda, with four Little League Major Baseball Division teams, and four Junior League Baseball Division teams. There are more than 700 boys and girls playing Little League in Uganda.
Pitch In For Baseball’s interest in Uganda baseball is quite simple. We’ve provided equipment to them each of the last 5 years and nothing will make us prouder than to see them step on to the “big stage” in Williamsport about 1 month from now. Win or lose, that moment will be a victory for our organization and all of the kids we’ve ever assisted. For the 12 years olds from Lugazi, I can imagine it will be a moment they will never forget.
The kids from Uganda represent the essence of why our organization exists. They love the game, but due to lack of equipment and other resources, that passion could not fully be realized. Pitch In For Baseball is just one of the reasons they’ve made such rapid progress. Richard Stanley, a Staten Island NY native has spent nearly a decade of time and much of his own money to give them the place to play and to continue to advocate on their behalf. Richard is the head of Little League Baseball in Uganda and he too will realize a dream when the kids from Uganda step onto the fields of Williamsport.
When it comes to baseball in Africa, there are many hurdles. Hopefully for the kids from Lugazi, the trip to Williamsport is one they will clear.
by Tom Schoenfelder
Even though it’s the summer and while I wish I could be on a sunny beach in the Jersey shore, equipment still gets donated. Just because many leagues in the United States have conclude and have received their equipment for the year doesn’t mean we take a break. This is the time where a lot international programs receive equipment.
Some of our recent projects include programs in France, Poland, Ukraine, and Pakistan. While none of these countries would scream baseball juggernauts, it’s amazing to see that there is an interest to play. It is my dream some day to find out that one of the kids we helped in some far away land made it to the majors and did so because of Pitch In For Baseball.
by Jessica Bicker
While soaking up the sun and splashing into a pool is an enjoyable way for youth to spend summer vacation, volunteering is a rewarding experience that can easily fit in with other summer plans.
If you are involved with a community organization that requires you to complete a service project, need volunteer hours for high school graduation, or just have a passion for sharing your love of baseball, organizing a collection for Pitch In For Baseball is simple and enjoyable. In fact, individuals who hold equipment drives are the backbone of our organization. They are the ones who keep our warehouse stocked, which enables us to say “yes” to underserved communities that ask for our help.
Connecting with a local youth baseball league is a good first step. You could ask to set up collection bins at some of the games (perhaps near a high-traffic area such as the concession stand). Many leagues wrap up their seasons in late June or July, so you could contact the league commissioner to find out if they have any unneeded equipment in good condition that they would be willing to donate.
Our #1 need is gloves. Other items we accept include: catcher’s gear, youth bats, batting helmets, baseballs, softballs, soft cover balls (for Tee Ball), rubber baseball cleats, youth uniform pants (sets of 12 or more, white or gray), youth uniform shirts and hats (sets of 12 or more), umpire protective gear, team equipment bags, sets of bases, batting tees, pitching machines.
If you are interested in organizing a charitable collection for Pitch In For Baseball, here are some helpful links:
Register your charity drive here so that we can assist you through the process.
Download flyers and other materials to promote your equipment collection.
If you have further questions after exploring our website, do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you remember the time you received your first baseball glove? Remember how it felt playing catch with it? Pitch In For Baseball makes this experience happen for children throughout the United States and over 75 countries worldwide. Children in underserved communities as close as Philadelphia and in far off countries like Uganda, do not have the proper equipment to play baseball. Pitch In For Baseball is able to help by collecting and redistributing gently used equipment such as baseballs, helmets, and catchers gear.
With more awareness more families and local leagues will find out about Pitch In For Baseball and want to get involved. The more people that know about Pitch In For Baseball the more children around the world we can help. By picking Pitch In For Baseball you will allow more children around the world to play the game of baseball.
Baseball has a greater impact than just on the field. Giving children the opportunity to play baseball will help teach them leadership and good sportsmanship. Just like your fond memories of playing catch and your first glove, those children helped by Pitch In For Baseball will never forget either.
Thank you for considering our organization.
–Pitch In For Baseball