February 2012

Lost and found

by David Rhode

You remember “lost and found”.  It’s the place your mom kept stopping by when you lost your glove or anything else of value.  Well Pitch In For Baseball LOVES lost and found.  Every youth league has one and there is a hidden treasure of baseball equipment in that pile waiting to find a new home.

If youth leagues did nothing but send us their lost and found than Pitch In For Baseball would need a bigger warehouse.  Today Robert Russell, the President of Oxford (PA) Little League  dropped off some goodies including their lost and found equipment.  Gloves, bats, batting helmets, you name it.

Next time you think of how your league can help PIFB, ask where your lost and found stuff is kept and if it would be ok to send it to us.

Happy Birthday

by David Rhode

It’s February 24th, my dad’s birthday.  I’m probably like most guys who developed their passion for sports through their dad.  I lost my dad in 1993, but I think of him often and especially when watching sports.  My brother and I have made many a late night visit to “see” dad after a big Phillies or Eagles win.  I cried in 2008 when the Phillies won the World Series and partly because I knew how much it would have meant to him. 

My dad loved all sports, but loved baseball the most.  My brother and I played a lot of games with my dad as “steady pitcher”.  He only occasionally broke out his curve ball and usually with bad results.  He loved watching us play and loved taking us to games.  We saw lots of bad teams here in Philadelphia, but got to share the Phillies 1980 World Series championship.

My dad would have loved Pitch In For Baseball.  Giving kids in inner cities or in far away places the chance to play baseball would have brought him back to his youth playing with anything that resembled a ball or a glove.

My dad gave me my entrepreneurial spirit and without it I wouldn’t have had the courage or confidence to start the organization.  In many ways he deserves the real credit for the organization’s success.

So happy birthday to Dan Rhode.  We’ll throw an extra candle next to the Shabbat candles tonight.

Big man on campus

by David Rhode

Today I had the opportunity to “lecture” to business students at Temple University.  Temple is a wonderful state school in the heart of Philadelphia.  My dad went there, so I’ve always had a soft spot for TU.

The setting for the  entrepreneurship class was simple.  I was to sit in front of a group of students and tell the Pitch In For Baseball story.  I’ve told it countless times and it takes little rehearsing for me to do my standup routine.  That said, it never gets old.  Retracing the steps the organization undertook in its early days and fast forwarding through to today gives me a chance to realize how far we’ve come in seven years, the obstacles we’ve overcome, and the successful outcomes we’ve had a chance to be a part of.

I’m always delighted to see how people respond to our organization and the questions that come to curious minds when confronted with our  challenges.  I’m energized by the interest people have in our story and flattered by their desire to get involved.  What a great day.

Go Owls and Go Pitch In For Baseball!

Donating to all fields

by Tom Schoenfelder

When an application comes in, it is always interesting to see where they are applying from.  We will get requests from areas as close as Philadelphia and as far away as the other side of the world in the Philippines.  Even though every program is different culturally and have different equipment needs, there is one commonality between them.  The dedicated individual applying for the equipment.

Be it a coach, league president, or volunteer, those who apply for the equipment care about their players.  They work tirelessly to make the season happen.  When the hurdle of needing equipment comes up, Pitch In For Baseball is happy to step up with the donation of equipment.

Robert White and PIFB Interns Dustin & Jim helping load equipment for the North Trenton Babe Ruth League

In the case of the North Trenton Babe Ruth league, in Trenton, NJ, that hard-working individual is Robert White. A year ago I had a phone conversation with Robert White after he applied for equipment.  What I heard on the other side of the phone was a man who had a passion for the kids in his league playing baseball.  We were able to help with a variety of equipment his league needed.  Over the past year it was encouraging to hear from him the impact the equipment made on his league.

In the 2012 their mission of the North Trenton league has not changed.  They continue to provide a safe place for children to learn and play baseball.  When they applied for equipment this year, I knew that this years donation will again help kids enjoy the game I loved to play growing up.

A league of their own

by David Rhode

Tomorrow 2 pallets of equipment will leave our warehouse and begin the journey to Colombia, South America.  This marks the 4th such time we’ve provided assistance to the Little League programs in Colombia and nothing makes us prouder.

If you watch enough movies or tv, you might know about towns like Medellin or Cartegena.  They are towns where drugs and violence rule the day.  Lucky for the kids who live there, Ana Florencia Pineros is helping to change that.  Ana is the Little League country manager in Colombia.  She’s as committed a volunteer as you could find in the Little League family and she is helping to make sure kids in towns thoughout her country have positive and safe opportunities like baseball in their lives. 

Ana has personally sponsored several of the shipments of equipment benefitting the kids in Colombia.  One particular success story that Ana shared with us related to the region of Guajira.  The Indian population who lives there face extreme poverty. The concept of organized sports is well beyond their means.  The donations Pitch In For Baseball have provided now make the dream of baseball a reality in this region.  Likewise, girls in other parts of Colombia who used to rely on cardboard “gloves” now have real mitts and and bats to start a league of their own.

The history of baseball in Colombia is not a rich one.  A few Major League players of note have come from this beautiful country better known for coffee than curve balls.  That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if a PIFB alum from Colombia made their way onto the baseball big stage in the future.  And if that happens, you’ll know that Ana and your friends at Pitch In For Baseball will be smiling.

Our MVV

by David Rhode

While it may seem a little early to be proclaiming postseason awards, this one is a shoe in.  Justin Briant is Pitch In For Baseball’s 2012 MVV…Most Valuable Volunteer.

Many non profit organizations will say that “volunteers are the backbone of our organization”.  Well, when you ship equipment to dozens of countries around the world and over a hundred communities domestically each year with just 2 full-time staff people, than you better have some awesome volunteers.  Thankfully, we do.

Justin is the kind of person who motivates me and gives me confidence that Pitch In For Baseball is truly a special cause worth supporting.  He has caught the Pitch In For Baseball bug and apparently he is in no danger of getting over it any time soon.  Justin is a high school senion in Edina, Minnesota.  He has singlehandedly help launch PIFB’s Minneapolis branch of the organization and has helped well over 1,000 kids in his area gain access to baseball and softball through the equipment he has helped collect and distribute.

Justin has helped fan the flames of the need to collect equipment among youth baseball organizations in his and neighboring towns; worked side by side with PIFB Board President Roy Smalley III to raise awareness for our mission; volunteered at Target Field when the Twins help Pitch In For Baseball collect equipment; spent many a night or weekend meeting prospective donors to help receive their donated goods; and helped organize and maintain donated warehouse space first in a downtown facility and now in his family’s garage.

(Roy Smalley III on left and Justin Briant on right)

In one more case of the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Justin’s dad Tom has been a huge advocate for Pitch In For Baseball…first supporting Justin’s various collection initiatives and then lately reaching out to members of his professional network to raise funds for our organization.

So, when you hear that volunteers are the backbone of our organization, think of Justin and the entire Briant Family and know that Pitch In For Baseball has already set the bar high to be our MVV for 2013.

Getting the call

by Tom Schoenfelder

Growing up all I ever wanted to be was a professional baseball player, then I realized that you needed a lot talent.  Unemployed and living in my parents basement after college was far from what I expected life would be like when I graduated.  I was told that finding a job would be very difficult, but I didn’t think it applied to me.  After striking out at numerous job interviews and still out of work, I received some of the best advice of my life from my brother.

Having a gap in my resume does not look good and I should volunteer.  So when I’m asked what I have done recently, I can say something other than reaching level 50 in Call of Duty.  I began tutoring and helping out at local non-profits.  While looking for volunteer opportunities on a website, I came across a job posting.

Still on my boss' bookshelf

It combined that love of baseball with the helping aspect of a non-profit.  I knew that I had to work for Pitch In For Baseball.  Company after company told me that my resume was not good enough and that I needed more experience.  I knew all I needed was a chance.

Before heading off to the Pitch In For Baseball interview I created a portfolio in a three ring binder that had my resume and all the projects I’ve worked on as a college student.  I confidently left the interview and drove the hour and half back to New Jersey.

A week later I received a phone call from David Rhode, executive director and founder of Pitch In For Baseball.  I was expecting to hear the “its not you, its that we found someone better” speech.  Instead I heard, “would you like to be the Operations Manager?”.  If he offered me the janitor position I probably would have still taken it.  I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, happy to go to work because I know that the baseball equipment I am helping to donate is putting smiles on kids faces all around the world.

Meeting Babe Ruth

by David Rhode

Yesterday I met Babe Ruth.  Not that Babe Ruth.

The Babe Ruth I spent the afternoon with was the fine team that runs Babe Ruth Baseball in Trenton, New Jersey.

Pitch In For Baseball has the pleasure of working with a number of outstanding organizations.  Little League International, USA Baseball, Major League Baseball’s RBI program, the Major League Baseball Players Association just to name a few.  In the last year or so, we have also begun to work very closely with Babe Ruth Baseball.

About 1 million kids play in Babe Ruth affiliated youth leagues annually in the U.S.  The leader of Babe Ruth Baseball is Steven Tellefsen.  Steven’s an down-to-earth guy with a big heart and a strong desire to give kids the chance to play ball.  Maybe that’s why he’s taken such an interest in Pitch In For Baseball.  We share the same goals and vision.

When separate floods struck the communities of Ludlow, VT and Minot, ND and in 2011 Steven asked us if there was anything we could do to help.  Our answer was an immediate “yes”.  He then wrote a heartfelt letter to the Babe Ruth leagues around the country and asked them to contribute $ and equipment to our organization to fuel our efforts to help these decimated communities.  The response was impressive to say the least.

This past month, we delivered our equipment to Vermont and in a month or so the equipment for Minot will be on its way.  It doesn’t take much to keep Tom Schoenfelder and I motivated at Pitch In For Baseball.  The fine folks of Ludlow paid us in smiles and maple syrup.  Not sure how or if Minot could ever top that.

So here’s to Babe Ruth.  The young people playing youth baseball with the Babe Ruth patch on their uniforms and the fine team at Babe Ruth Baseball in Trenton are making sure that name will live on forever.

The bottom of the barrel

by David Rhode

We’ve all heard or used the expression, “the bottom of the barrel”.  It’s not a positive expression.  It usually means you are down in the dumps or that some bad event has just befallen you.

At Pitch In For Baseball, we literally store things in barrels, so when we get near the bottom of the barrel, it’s not a good thing.  However, something happens at Pitch In For Baseball which is hard to explain.  We never actually get to the bottom.  Just when it seems like we are about to run out of something…gloves, catcher’s mitts, or our latest most wanted item (catcher’s masks) they show up.  Without fail, it’s like someone knows we are running low and they just show up.  The latest ‘thank you’ in this tradition goes out to Chico Little League in Chico, California.  The dozen or so catcher’s masks, in addition to the other goodies you shipped, could not have come at a better time.

So here’s to the bottom of the barrel.  May we never see it.

It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball on Valentine’s Day

by Tom Schoenfelder

On this Valentine’s Day, I’m reminded of a line from the movie “Moneyball” describing the relationship many have with baseball.


 

Growing up baseball is our first love.  Gloves are broken in under pillows.  Scorecards are love letters to the players.  When your team loses, it’s like you we’re dumped.  While dates can come and go, the passion for the sport stays with us.

– Tom Schoenfelder