March 2012

Every glove matters

By Jim Dailey

The other day I was going through old gloves from the 1950’s and 1960’s that were donated to Pitch In For Baseball and began thinking about the history of these gloves.  I realized that people aren’t just donating a glove; they are donating memories.

Former baseball players enjoy talking about their playing days and reminisce about their playing in high school and making the game saving catch to win the championship for their team. Some people may have emotional feelings towards their old gloves.  Those gloves may invoke memories of growing up having a catch in the backyard with their dad.

Pitch In for Baseball is not just helping the children play baseball; it’s about giving children the tools needed to make memories last a lifetime.

Blast from the past

by David Rhode

On December 31, 2007 my wife and I celebrated New Years in Beijing.  This was part of a wonderful trip seeing sights in a place I had never been.  My wife had lived and studied there in the past, but it had been 20 years since her last visit.  A lot had changed and was still changing in anticipation of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

During that trip we visited a school-based team that Pitch In For Baseball had helped with donated equipment. It was about 5 degrees farenheit that day, yet the kids we met played for over an hour showing us how appreciative they were of the donated items.  One of the people who made that possible was a young guy named Mike Marone.  Mike was a transplanted Texan who found his way to be Major League Baseball’s country manager for China.  Mike coordinated our transportation that day, translated and kept the kids (and us) from freezing.

cold baseball day in Beijing

Visiting a school in the Fengtai district who had received equipment from Pitch In For Baseball

Fast forward to 2012.  Mike Marone is now in Philadelphia pursuing his MBA at Wharton.  As a result, we’ve had a chance to reconnect.  Today Mike and his 2 year old son made the trip out to the Pitch In For Baseball offices to see what we do first hand.

Mike has had a front row seat for many years to see how baseball is taking root in China.  He loves the game.  He’s a patient teacher and helped plant many seeds in China that will hopefully produce baseball fruit in the future.

Our organization has grown a great deal in the 4 years since I met Mike.  We actually now have an office, have expanded our staff and with it our capacity to help kids.

Mike is one of the thousands of people who have played a piece in the Pitch In For Baseball success story.  I”m glad he got a chance to see how far we’ve come and I hope our paths cross again in the near future.

Paying it forward

by David Rhode

Pitch In For Baseball is built generally on the “pay it forward” principle.  Paying it forward refers generally to the idea of  repaying a debt by doing something good for another person instead of repaying the person who helped you.  It’s not that we in a strict sense owe anyone a debt, it’s more a feeling that we should not take for granted the good things in our life and be ever mindful of those who may need a hand from time to time.  The concept of pay it forward was popularized in the 2000 movie by the same name where a young boy played by  Haley Joel Osment tries to make the world a better place by doing things to help others. 

One of our previous equipment recipients surprised us the other day with a true act of Paying it Forward.  This week marked the 1 year anniversary of the tsunami and earthquake that struck Japan.  Just the other day, Pitch In For Baseball sent out an appeal for equipment and financial support to assist the community of Henryville, Indiana that was devastated by tornadoes.  One of the largest financial donations we recieved was from the coordinator of the Little League program we helped in Japan.  This gentleman then went a step further.  He asked his colleagues in the Tokyo area to also support Pitch In For Baseball.

I liked the movie Pay It Forward and was kind of sad to see our hero not make it at the end of the movie (sorry if I’m spoiling the ending for anyone 12 years later).  The concept of generating good karma by helping others and the hope that your act would then create an environment where more people had a desire to do the same inspired me.  Maybe it even inspired me to take the plunge and start Pitch In For Baseball in 2005.

What’s nice is to see how people all around the world want to make a difference and at least in Pitch In For Baseball’s situation to make sure that kids everywhere get a chance to play.  The financial support we received this week from Japan is a special reminder of the power of paying it forward and I hope it never stops.

And away it goes

by David Rhode

Less than 48 hours after we heard from the group in Henryville, Indiana 11 boxes are on their way to replace the equipment they lost in the tornadoes a week ago.  I think that represents the new gold standard for turnaround between request and shipment.

The equipment will run the gamut.  It will be gloves, baseballs, softballs, bats, batting helmets, equipment bags, cleats, pants, catcher’s gear.  The reason we can react so quickly is that we’ve received so many wonderful donations in the past.  That said, we are almost out of gloves and catcher’s gear and our supply of baseballs is getting low.  These are somewhat normal occurences for us at this time of the year.  March is a month where a lot more equipment goes out the door than comes in.

The equipment and uniforms we donate are our way to say “we hope things get better soon”.  What can you say to a group that has had its world turned upside town.  Friends or loved ones lost their loves or suffered terrible injuries.  Homes were destroyed or damaged. 

What we do know is that the kids in the Henryville Babe Ruth league will get back to practice next week and their Opening Day will go off as scheduled.

Waiting for the phone to ring

by David Rhode

The other day I was talking to someone about Pitch In For Baseball and I predicted that “I will get a phone call within 3 days from someone in Indiana who was impacted by the tornadoes”.  Sadly, that call came 1 hour later, not 3 days.

For those of you who have not been watching the news, much of the Midwest and specifically southern Indiana were devastated by tornadoes last Friday.  One town in particular that found itself in the way of mother nature’s wrath was Henryville, Indiana.  Henryville was in the news for the heroic efforts of Stephanie Decker.  She is brave mom who ended up losing her legs in the course of her efforts to save her children as her house literally caved in on top of her and her family.

Damage assessments are still be tallied.  The loss of life and property is more than 1 town should ever bear.

Pitch In For Baseball has been involved with a range of these scenarios in recent years.  It’s a “who’s who” of tragic images…New Orleans, Japan, Joplin to name a few.  And now Henryville.

Within each of these towns is a volunteer who has been thrust into the unsuspecting role of the person charged with figuring out what to do about getting kids in a devastated town back on the baseball field. The process starts with the big picture.  Who has been killed, hurt, lost their home?  What condition are our fields in?  Do we have any equipment left?  If so, can it be used?

In our experience the inner circle of the town’s youth baseball organization quickly concludes that these kids need baseball.  The need it soon and maybe more than ever.  And that’s when our phone rings.

So this week I’ve heard the stories and seen the images.  Even so, how can anyone say that they can imagine what it’s like.  Entire streets or neighborhoods simply gone.

Pitch In For Baseball is not the Red Cross or any of the many wonderful organizations that provide humanitarian need.  We help kids play baseball.  I’m torn between the thoughts of how trivial baseball can seem at a time like this and how vital it can be to the psyche of a child or a community.  When everything around you has literally been turned on its head, sometimes just playing a game or having a catch can be much-needed therapy for the mind, body and soul.

Our warehouse is simply nuts this time of year.  The first two weeks of March are our busiest two weeks on the calendar.  There are literally dozens of high school and youth programs who need equipment to launch their seasons.  We are an organization of two full time staff, and there is physically only so much that can get done in a day.

So today we began in earnest the process of getting equipment to Henryville.  It went to the top of our very long list.  We don’t have enough equipment for all of our recipients, so we also began the process of letting others know that we could use some help.  More equipment.  More financial support.  Our website’s homepage now tells the story of our desire and plans to assist the good people of Indiana.  Our donate now button could use some action.

For a kid from Philadelphia, it’s hard to admit that your favorite sports movie is Hoosiers and not Rocky.  But my thoughts for the next days and weeks will be on a different group of Hoosiers…the good people of Henryville, Indiana.

The Pinkalicious rule

by David Rhode

When you have a 5 year old daughter, your world view is altered.  In my house, I now have to expand my horizons to things like dolls, make up, and anything associated with being a rock star.  You also have different books to read.  To be clear, my daughter loves dinosaurs and sharks, so she’s not strictly a girly girl.  One series we read is Pinkalicious. 

At Pitch In For Baseball, we apply the “Pinkalicious rule”.  For any of you who have read the books, there is a famous expression, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset”.  It’s what Pinkalicious’ mom says to our young heroine and basically it encourages her (and the rest of us) to appreciate what we have and what we’re given.

We would love to give every applicant all the equipment they request in exactly the quantity,color and configuration they request it.  But, we can only give away what get’s donated to us.  Hence the Pinkalicious rule.

Almost everyone we interact with “gets it”.  They know we are a leanly staffed and underresourced organization.  When we tell them we will do our best, we mean it.  Our results bear that out.  However, every once in a while we come across an applicant who has not read Pinkalicious a/k/a the Pitch In For Baseball bible.  So they get a touch cranky if we don’t have a certain shade of uniforms/socks/catcher’s gear.  They might want the baseballs to have a certain type of stamp on them to certify them for play in their league.  We’re not Baseball Express or Sports Authority, we’re Pitch In For Baseball.  Maybe we should get a few copies of Pinkalicious and keep them in stock and slip one into an order for a difficult customer.  Then when they call to ask why, we can let this important phrase go to work.

Trip down memory lane

by David Rhode

For the first 4+ years at Pitch In For Baseball I had the privilege of hand-selecting a vast majority of the equipment our organization shipped to our worthy recipients.  However, as the organization has grown, more staff have come on board and I’ve refocused my time on some of the long term partnerships and fundraising that is necessary for the organization to be sustainable and meet our goals.  As a result, warehouse responsibilities are now in the very capable hands of Tom Schoenfelder and others to manage the operations side of the charity.

Anyone who has ever packed up equipment at Pitch In For Baseball takes away a great feeling of pride and accomplishment.  This is where the rubber meets the road for our charity.  Sending out equipment is how we make a difference in the world.

Today I asked Tom to put me to work.  I haven’t packed up anything so far this year and I miss it.  I packed up donations heading to high school programs in Mississippi, California and Philadelphia as well as a donation to a family in Kentucky.  It was one of the best days I’ve had in months.

Gloves, balls, bats, helmets, cleats and uniforms are the currency we trade in.  Picking out the items and packing them in boxes is a great reminder of what we do and why we spend so much of our time in building the organization.

The quality of the equipment we have in stock is awesome.  As Tom mentioned in his recent blog, some things get better with age and baseball gloves and catcher’s mitts definitely fit that mold.  Our donors have really sent us some tremendous stuff.

So if you are ever looking for a great way to spend a few hours, pay us a visit and we’ll put you to work.  Getting your hands dirty here is a great way to spend a day,

Dissecting a donation

By Tom Schoenfelder

To think that the donated equipment to Pitch In For Baseball is junk would be an awful association.  Just because someone grew out of or has no use for does not make it all of a sudden bad.  Like fine wine, some equipment like gloves, actually gets better with age.  As a general rule of thumb, after you purchase something it becomes used no matter what condition it is in.  The only difference between your equipment and the equipment at Pitch In For Baseball is that you haven’t donated it yet.

Baseball season fully upon us and so are the flyers and advertisements from retail stores.  For a guy whose job is to manage a warehouse with thousands of pieces of equipment, it has never dawned on me to think about what everything’s worth until I saw it in a Sports Authority brochure.  Seeing the price of each product got me to think about how much money we would be hypothetically giving away.  Let’s take a recent donation to a Philadelphia high school team that picked up today….

Taking the average prices for each type of equipment I came up with a rough sum of what it would cost if this brand new baseball and softball teams purchased all their equipment.  $600 for gloves, $300 for catchers gear,$400 for balls, $200 for helmets, $300 for cleats, $100 for bases and another $100 for miscellaneous things like equipment bags and training aids.

That’s $2,000 worth of equipment.

While it may sound good that we gave away that much money, what’s more important is that this school which never heard of Pitch In For Baseball before Thursday afternoon starts their very first day of practice ever today with equipment.

When Little League sneezes…

by David Rhode

You know that expression “when America sneezes, the world catches a cold”.  It often refers to the effect on the economy globally that can be felt when something of significance happens in the US.

The same can be said of organized youth baseball.  When Little League International sneezes, things happen in the world of youth baseball.  Today Little League sneezed, and Pitch In For Baseball (PIFB) is going to feel it…in a good way. 

As they’ve done in the past, Little League has asked their member leagues to make equipment donations benefitting Pitch In For Baseball.  This is a very generous thing for Little League to do given the size and scope of their network of leagues and volunteers.  For some reason, the letter they sent out today really hit home.  Our phone lines and email inboxes can attest to the positive impact that this request for assistance is having.  In the days and weeks to come we’ll receive catcher’s gear, uniforms, equipment bags, bats, balls, gloves, pitching machines, you name it.  And just in the nick of time.

In the past 48 hours, PIFB has received 11 new requests for assistance (that’s a new 2 day record).  That’s good news because we know the impact on the kids and communities will be huge.  That’s bad news because we only have so much equipment to go around.

That’s where the Little League request for help comes in. Today Little League programs from as far away as Washington, California, Texas, Virginia, and Massachusettes have contacted us to let us know that “help is on the way”. 

People have often asked me what is the key to Pitch In For Baseball’s success.  I can give you the long version or the short version answer.  The short version is the quality of our partners and Little League tops that list.  Little League believes deeply in our mission and has been with us from Day 1 to help us achieve our goals. 

Thanks Little League and good luck with that cold.

Philly guys

by David Rhode

While Pitch In For Baseball has helped kids in over 70 countries world wide and more than 250 communities here in the US, many of us in the organization are “Philly guys” at heart.   I was born and raised in the “greater Northeast”.  Many of our Board Members, staff and volunteers are from this area.

Like many major cities, Philadelphia has been impacted by the sluggish economy and budget cuts at the city level have trickled down to the Philadelphia Public Schools.  Recently middle school and high school baseball and softball programs have come under real pressure.  With a shrinking budget, programs get cut.  While equipment is far from the only line item on the baseball budget for a school, it is a real one. 

This year Pitch In For Baseball will probably assist more than 2 dozen Philadelphia Public schools with equipment and uniforms.  It seems crazy to us that in a city where the professional team sells out every home game that there is not enough support for kids to play in school.  That does not mean that we expect the Phillies to pick up the tab.  It simply means to point out the deep divide in our society where kids, especially those in the inner cities, don’t have access to the things that so many of us take for granted.

So today we are meeting with the athletic directors from the public schools to again offer our assistance.  Nothing makes a bunch of Philly guys prouder than the pictures and letters we get back from an Opening Day game from one of the local teams we’ve helped.