Results tagged ‘ baseball charity ’

The Red Cross of Baseball

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.

Pat Doherty, President of Oceanside American LL, carries a box to its new home

Pat Doherty, President of Oceanside American LL, carries a box to its new home

bags of uniforms will be worn once again

bags of uniforms will be worn once again

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).

Receiving a new glove takes the edge off a cold winter day

Receiving a new glove takes the edge off a cold winter day

Not hard to picture these guys on the field together in the next few weeks

Not hard to picture these guys on the field together in the next few weeks

Raising the Bar

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.

(Murray Lebovitz)

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.

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,

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.

We’ve come a long way, baby

by David Rhode

Tonight is a Pitch In For Baseball Board of Directors meeting.  If my math is close to correct, this will be our 43rd  such meeting since our inception.  Nothing magical about the number, it’s just that it gives me pause to think back to our very first meeting as an organization.

The date was September 20, 2005.  Unlike now when we actually can have meetings in our conference room of our office/warehouse, in those days we met around my dining room table.  My wife and kids and pets scattered.  I set out some food.  We had an agenda and off we went.

The start of anything is exciting.  As a group, we really had no idea what to expect when we “opened our doors” for business.  At the time we had just a concept and a name.  Pitch In For Baseball.  No website…no equipment…no money…just some friends and I trying to see if we could launch a baseball charity.

The backdrop of the meeting was that the country was going through a very emotional time.  Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had just hit the Gulf Coast region within the last month.  While the original focus of our organization was intended to be on international assistance, we knew immediately that our initial focus should be on getting kids in that region back on the field of play.

We set a goal to assist 3 programs in 2006.  We had no idea what that really meant since we hadn’t really defined what a donation would consist of, but 3 has always been my lucky number so 3 it was.  In reality, we accomplished much more, bringing much needed resources to 16 programs here in the US and around the world.  More than half that assistance went to communities in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Florida.

The growth over the last 6 years has been extremely rewarding.  We now work as partners with Little League International, USA Baseball, Major League Baseball, the MLB Players Association, Babe Ruth Baseball and the list goes on.  We’ve shipped equipment to over 70 countries worldwide and over 250 communities here in the United States.

We’ve reached some important conclusions during this time frame.

  1. Helping kids play baseball matters.
  2. Bringing joy to kids never gets old.
  3. We have a lot more work to do.

We invite you to join us in that effort.  Visit us at Pitch In For Baseball and join our team.  Our work is fun, it’s important and you can make a difference.

Meeting a hero

by Tom Schoenfelder

Before working at Pitch In For Baseball, I never thought I’d get the opportunity to meet some of my idols growing up.  My first week on the job I was told I needed to call Zack Hample, ballhawk of all ballhawks and awesome author.  I remember as a twelve year old boy reading his book entitled How to Snag Major League Baseballs.  During that phone call I realized Zack was a normal guy…a normal guy that’s snagged 5,819 baseballs at Major League ballgames.

This past summer I had the pleasure of meeting Zack, along with his family, during a visit to our warehouse in Pennsylvania.  I was asked if I didn’t mind being on camera for a Korean documentary.  Of course I didn’t shy away from the limelight and relished the opportunity to have my 15 mins of fame in far away land.  Here is what ensued…

Zack is a unique person and the best at what he does.  If you do not already follow Zacks blog you are missing out.

My First Glove

by Roy Smalley III

“A glove, a child, a difference” is a perfect summation of our mission at Pitch In For Baseball.  I was asked recently if I could remember getting my first glove.  Remember?  It is a memory I will carry forever.  It was Spring Training in 1958 and I was 5 1/2 years old.  My dad, Roy Smalley Jr (I am Roy III) was with the Philadelphia Phillies.  My dad would take me to the ballpark every morning and I would hang around the dugout watching my heroes go through their workouts.  One day the great Hall of Famer-to-be, Robin Roberts came up to me with an old, worn glove of his, handed it to me and said, “Here young man.  I’d like you to have this.”  I know he meant it to be a souvenir–he even signed it.  But for me, it was my glove–one I would use until my dad bought me my first brand new one when I was 10.  It was ten years of growth too big for me and was too worn for Robin to use, but it was mine.  I took if everywhere, used it in Little League games and had it next to my pillow at night.  I am convinced that using that way-to-big-for-me glove helped develop my “hands” as a young shortstop.  When I did finally get that brand new Rawlings I couldn’t believe how easy catching a groundball was.

I know that very few kids will ever be lucky enough to be given a glove by a major leaguer.  I also know that there are far too many kids who will never be given a glove at all.  The point of my story is not where the glove comes from.  A kid getting a glove is a magical moment.  It is a moment of pure joy that will be relived for days and days to come in the child’s life.  Thank you for continuing to help us bring those moments to more and more kids.  There are so many more magical moments waiting to happen.

Roy Smalley III is the current Board President of Pitch In For Baseball

A Glove, A Child, A Difference

by David Rhode

The theme of this upcoming year at Pitch In For Baseball is “a glove, a child, a difference”.  Pitch In For Baseball is not a difficult concept to grasp.  We collect and redistribute equipment.  The result of that work is to create joy and positive outcomes in the lives of kids by giving them a chance to play a game that so many of us find so special.

At the heart of Pitch In For Baseball is the baseball glove.  It is the item, more than any other, which unlocks the door to the game.  So many of remember having a catch with a sibling, a parent, a grandparent, a friend.  In the days when breaking in a glove was part mad scientist and part urban legend, it was the glove that captured our imagination.

At Pitch In For Baseball, however, the glove is our real bottleneck, our nemesis.  We never have enough donated gloves to meet the needs of those requesting help.  It is the purchasing of new gloves that consumes a big piece of our annual budget.  It is frequently the only item we cannot fulfill to a recipient in the quantity they request.

So if you ever want to know what you can do to help Pitch In For Baseball, the answer is gloves.  Help us unlock the idea that gets more donated. Write us the check that lets us buy more.  The formula for making kids happy is not a mystery.  One more glove brings lasting joy to one more child and that is the difference we are seeking at Pitch In For Baseball.

Here’s to 2012, may it be our best ever!

Baseball weather

by Tom Schoenfelder

With the start of February it usually means two things… its cold outside but spring training right around the corner and I need to find a date for Valentines day.  Beautiful weather like today in the Philadelphia region makes me feel like digging up my old glove.  If you are anything like me, you have a basement full of dusty old equipment and boxes of participation trophies.

Pitch In For Baseball can help…with the equipment.  If your old gear has rounded third, find it a new home.  Go on our website to learn about how you can make a difference in some child’s life.

www.pitchinforbaseball.org