Results tagged ‘ disaster relief ’

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

Opening Day

by David Rhode

Opening Day in any youth league is a time of anticipation, fun, chaos and occasionally some baseball mixed in.  However for the community of Henryville, Indiana, the 2012 Opening Day ceremonies were a time of particular significance.  You see in this day and age of short attention spans the name Henryville, Indiana may not mean much to most people.  Therefore, let me take you back just 6 weeks to when this community was devastated by an EF4 tornado on March 2nd.

So for Henryville the idea that on April 14 they’d be gathering with smiles on their faces to kick off their baseball season would have seemed impossible.  Pitch In For Baseball, Louisville Slugger and countless other caring individuals provided equipment, financial support and manpower to help them get back on their feet.

I had the privilege along with fellow Pitch In For Baseball Board Member, John Yengo, of attending their Opening Day this past Saturday.  The kids were great.  We met “Spike” and “Big Poppi” and coaches and league administrators who through their efforts were able to give kids the chance to play ball.  The sentiments we heard echoed time and again on Saturday was how important it was to give both the kids and the community something that resembled normalcy even when things around them were anything but that.

With massive construction going on down the street at the school, Henryville is still a work in progress.  However if the spirit exhibited Saturday is any indication, I think there are many good days ahead.

For more pictures from Henryville’s Opening Day, visit the Pitch In For Baseball Facebook page. www.facebook.com/#!/PitchInForBaseball

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.

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.