January 2012

A True Mittsvah

by David Rhode

Somehow Pitch In For Baseball has become a great landing spot for young boys and girls who are required to conduct a Mitzvah Project in preparation for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah.  Truth be told, I’m not sure what Pitch In For Baseball would do without them.

Kids are truly the backbone of our organization.  They collect equipment, raise funds, volunteer time in our warehouse.

For those of you not familiar with the term Mitzvah, it’s a Jewish word and loosely translated means “an act of human kindness or good deed”.

In the last 7 years, well over 100 kids have chosen Pitch In For Baseball for their Mitzvah project.  It’s really a great experience for the kids to translate a passion they have for baseball to a meaningful act of philanthropy in helping kids who are less fortunate to be able to receive the equipment needed to play.

This past year we’ve had dozens of great projects and to choose the “best” one is like a parent have to say which child they love the most (Casey).  That said, Jacob Gurvis of Newton, Massachusetts collected a 2011 best 105 gloves  in addition to numerous other items that benefited kids in need.  He called his effort a “Mittsvah”, which was not only creative, but apparently effective as well.  Jacob put together a short video describing his involvement with our organization.  Listen in to hear in his words why connecting with PIFB was meaningful to him.

Uganda baseball–continued success

Many of you may not know that the Little League team from Uganda that qualified for this past year’s Little League World Series, never made the trip to Williamsport due to trouble and challenges obtaining their visas.  They would have been the first team from Africa to ever take the field in Williamsport.  You certainly wouldn’t know that the team Uganda was scheduled to play (Canada) in the Little League World Series recently made a visit to Uganda to play this game.  For what it’s worth, in a game that was delayed almost six months, Uganda beat Canada 2-1.  The outcome itself is immaterial.  What mattered most was that the experience for both the Canadian and Ugandan kids was one they will never forget and for that we should all smile and say “job well done”.

Ugandan Little League players celebrate their 2-1 victory against the Canadian team from Langley, British Columbia. Felix "Abooki" Barugahare is hoisted on his teammates shoulders after scoring the winning run.

The success and passion for baseball in Uganda is truly special and inspiring.  There are many people who deserve credit and there are many folks who get recognized for their role in that success.  Jimmy Rollins and Derrek Lee made the recent trip to Uganda and helped bring much needed attention to the potential of the game in the region.  Ruth Hoffman and her organization Right to Play helped raise the funds that made the trip and playing of the exhibition game possible.  Jay Shapiro and his group are helping to tell the Uganda Baseball story in a beautiful documentary that will hopefully be released later this year.  Richard Stanley is the engine behind much of the growth of Little League in Uganda.  He has put up a tremendous amount of his own money and dedicated years of effort to see things reach this point.  All this is good stuff.

Funny thing is, they wouldn’t be playing much baseball without equipment and most of the equipment they are receiving is from Pitch In For Baseball.  We’ve helped the program in Uganda for the last 5 years.  It is one of the true success on our organization’s resume. While privately we are genuinely thanked from all parties for role we play, when push comes to shove, the attention and the financial resources fall onto other groups for the role they play.  This isn’t sour grapes, this is reality.  Equipment isn’t sexy.  Yet, in the thousands of projects we’ve completed in 7 years and the several hundred thousand kids we’ve impacted, the passion kids feel for baseball would be just a dream without the equipment to make that dream a reality.

Making dreams a reality is what Pitch In For Baseball specializes in.  We invite you to get involved with our organization so you can be part of the joy we help spread both here in the US and around the world.

Pitch In For Baseball® teams with Carl Pavano to record his first save

Ludlow, Vermont–Carl Pavano has appeared in almost 300 games during his 13 major league pitching career, but it’s likely his role in restoring the youth baseball program in Ludlow, VT will earn him his first official “save”.

While millions prepared for, and ultimately dodged a bullet, when Hurricane Irene took aim on the Eastern seaboard this past September, one state that took a direct hit was Vermont.  Historic flooding ensued in towns across the state.  One such town, Ludlow, was deluged by 15 inches of rain from the storm and suffered great losses including its youth baseball program where fields and equipment were effectively washed away.

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Carl Pavano makes his offseason home in Ludlow and saw an immediate need to step in.  “Disasters like this effect communities and families for years,” said Pavano. “I have been fortunate enough to have met great people throughout this town. And some of these people have been impacted by this disaster in ways that I could not imagine. I would not know what to do if I was in their position.  I am in a position to help Ludlow restore the things that keep the kids in this town smiling. It was a true team effort.  With the added support of the Major League Baseball Players Trust, the Minnesota Twins Community Fund and Pitch in for Baseball, the town of Ludlow will get the equipment back they lost in this disaster and come spring the fields that were flooded out will be back into shape giving the kids a place to laugh, smile and play.”

Pavano and Ludlow Parks & Recreation Director, Howard Paul reached out to Pitch In For Baseball to see if the youth baseball charity would be able to step in and make sure the waterlogged and missing equipment could be replaced in time for the start of the spring season.  Pitch In For Baseball and Carl Pavano will present that replacement equipment to the league on January 11 at the Ludlow Community Center where the town’s resident Major Leaguer will also conduct a baseball clinic for the local kids.

“The decision to help the community of Ludlow was an easy one,” said David Rhode, Founder and Executive Director of Pitch In For Baseball.  “It was clear from the start that Carl was determined to make this happen.”  Just earlier this year, Pitch In For Baseball had provided equipment to numerous towns across the state of Mississippi impacted by flooding, and to Joplin, MO after tornadoes devastated that community, and most recently in Japan to help kids in schools and Little League programs who lost so much in the historic earthquake and tsunami earlier this year.

“A heart-felt thank you goes out to Carl Pavano and Pitch In For Baseball for helping us to rebuild our youth baseball program after the flood,” commented Howard Paul.  “Baseball is such an important part of our community, so the damage to our fields and loss of equipment was devastating.  Opening day of our baseball season will truly be special this year!”

In addition to its work when Mother Nature impacts a youth baseball community, Pitch In For Baseball works closely with communities around the United States and around the world seeking to help give kids a chance to participate in the games of baseball and softball.

“Much of the equipment we donate—some new, some gently used—is from kids and youth baseball organizations who share our passion for the game.”

Those wanting to support Pitch In For Baseball’s efforts can make a donation of equipment or financial support by going to www.pitchinforbaseball.org.  “We need to build our supply of equipment so that we can continue to say ‘yes’ whenever and wherever the need arises,” said Rhode.