Allen, Shaw open Wiffle ball field at Providence House
By Shane Jackson
CLEVELAND -- Last fall, Indians closer Cody Allen was given a tour of Providence House as he and his wife Mallory were preparing for a service project. On the tour, president and chief executive officer Natalie Leek-Nelson showed them the Browns-themed library, and then she directed them outside to the Cavaliers-themed basketball court.
Allen was impressed by the city support with the Browns and Cavaliers logos, but he couldn't help but notice the lack of his own team's presence. Thus, the idea to build a Wiffle ball field in the backyard was born.
"I looked and saw Browns and Cavs logos," Allen said. "It's not like we are trying to battle with them, but I felt like we should do our part. This is a great place. The city of Cleveland needs a place like this for these kids, so we just tried to put our stamp on this."
The Allens partnered up with Tribe reliever Bryan Shaw and his wife Kristen to bring the idea to life. After a few months, the idea finally came into fruition on Thursday when the miniature turf field -- with an Indians logo down the left-field line -- was debuted for the kids of Providence House.
In addition, Wiffle balls, bats and other equipment were donated along with the field. The idea was to give the children something to play on year around, whether that's baseball, ultimate frisbee, soccer or other physical activities.
"The concept of what they do here is awesome," Shaw said. "To be able to help them out and give them something they can have fun on, and to be able to give them something they can play on year round, it's pretty awesome."
Both Shaw and Allen have been regular volunteers for the Providence House since becoming focal points in Cleveland's bullpen. Providence House has been around in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood since 1981, and many Indians players and the Wives Association have been active volunteers ever since. It was Ohio's first crisis nursery.
Providence House is designed to offer emergency shelter to newborns through 10-year-olds who are living in crisis situations. The operation provides a home for up to 60 days for those in a crisis situation, which places them at risk of abuse or neglect.
"While they are here, we focus on the whole child," Leek-Nelson said. "Their medical wellness, school readiness, social and emotional. And really their physical activity. That's why this is so great."
Cody Allen taken deep on brand new Wiffle Ball Field at Providence House. He wanted a replay, thought it was foul. pic.twitter.com/00n1eMyc3F
They certainly got their opportunity for physical activity during the debut of the new field. Allen and Shaw spent the morning before the series opener with the Yankees playing with the kids. For a couple of hours, kids had the opportunity to play catch and take swings off a pair of Major League pitchers.
"To them, they have probably only seen the Indians on TV," Leek-Nelson said. "So this feels like they are in the big stadium to be here with these guys. It's great."
Despite getting hit around Thursday morning and throwing a good numbers of pitches, the relievers should be ready if their name is called in the series opener.
"I got hit around a little bit by these guys," Shaw said. "But I should bounce back and be good to go."
Shane Jackson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.