Results tagged ‘ Pitch In For Baseball ’

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.

One of a kind

by David Rhode

There are few times when we can say that someone is truly unique…a true one of kind person.  Pitch In For Baseball has the pleasure of associating with one such person.  You may have already heard of him.  His name is Zack Hample

A kid at heart hardly describes Zack’s enthusiasm for baseball.  Zack has been attending games his whole life, but that’s far from a unique story.  Zack snags baseballs at games and does so at a rate that is hard to believe.  Last season he snagged over a 1,000 batting practice, foul balls, home run balls and various other balls at Major League stadiums.  He has snagged just over 5,900 balls at 49 different parks in his lifetime including a streak of over 800 consecutive games with at least 1 ball. 

For the last 3 years, Zack has generously donated to Pitch In For Baseball by having folks pledge a certain amount for each ball he can grab during a season.  He’ll surpass $20,000 in donations by the end of this season.  You can join the team of folks helping in this fashion by registering here.

Moreover, Zack is an accomplished author of 3 baseball books.  They make a great read for any fan of the game.

As he appeared in Sports Illustrated

In this “me too” world, Zack has a number of followers and I daresy wanna bees.  But for those who’ve met him there is only 1 Zack Hample and I’m glad he’s our friend.

Sharing the joy through our photo contest

by Jessica Bicker

The joy in a kid’s eyes as he pulls on his very first glove from a box sent from Pitch In For Baseball is inspiring. We often describe such moments to donors and fans of our organization, but words do not always fully capture the incredible results of our donations. That’s why we love when we have photographs to share.

We want to be able to share more moments like these, and that’s why Pitch In For Baseball is launching a photo contest.

We are asking anyone who has ever received Pitch In For Baseball equipment to enter the contest, and of course, there is a great grand prize: brand new baseballs (or softballs) for your team for an entire season.

Here’s what you need to do to enter:

-Submit your best photos of players on your team using equipment donated from Pitch In For Baseball (we included a couple of great examples in this post).

-Your photo should capture the joy that our organization brings to kids across the world (no team photos – we’re looking for inspiring images).

-Attach your photo(s) as an attachment in an email to jess@pitchinforbaseball.org and include the name of your team, coach’s name, and coach’s email address.

Submission deadline: Wednesday, May 23. Voting will occur June 1 – 8.

Be sure to like us on Facebook and check for contest updates.

Note: Your participation in the contest acknowledges the support of Pitch In For Baseball within all public documents, websites, press materials and public statements related to the program or league.

 

Back in the swing

by David Rhode

Opening Day is special everywhere.  But at least this year, maybe more so in the country of Japan.  On March 11, 2011 just a little over 1 year ago, a massive earthquake and tsunami struck this passionate baseball nation.

With the financial support of the Major League Baseball Players Trust, Pitch In For Baseball had the privilege of providing equipment to 40 school based and Little League programs.

Well as you can see from the pictures below, baseball in Japan is back as youth leagues participated in the annual right of spring known everywhere as Opening Day.  The pagentry of their ceremonies shows the respect they have for the game.  The joy and concentration on the faces of the kids is universal.

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Meet Spike

by David Rhode

One of the most memorable people and memorable stories from our trip to Henryville, Indiana was the chance to meet a young boy who as you can see is best known to his friends as “Spike”.

10 year old Colin and his family lost their home in the EF4 tornado that struck their community on March 2nd.  Although his family is doing well, everyone in the family was injured that day, but the quick-thinking Spike.  Why you might ask.  Well he put on his batting helmet and that helped him weather the dramatic events of the day.

If you want to meet Spike and some of the other members of the Henryville Youth Baseball Association who were imacted by our recent equipment donation, just check out our video below.

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

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.