Pitch In For Baseball has donated more than $5M in equipment in past 10 years
By Mark Newman
NEW YORK -- While the 25th RBI World Series was underway for 24 baseball and softball teams in Cincinnati, Major League Baseball staffers in the Commissioner's Office volunteered their time on Thursday to make sure other kids in the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program have the resources to perhaps reach that event one day.
MLB employees and interns teamed with Pitch In For Baseball to pack much-needed equipment for the Far Rockaway (N.Y.) and North Newark (N.J.) RBI Leagues. Baseballs, softballs, bats, helmets, pants, catcher's gear, position and batting gloves, wrist guards, compression sleeves, T-ball stands and equipment bags were among the items that went into 70 large boxes and then out the door so that more than 600 boys and girls will have the basic essentials for the coming fall ball season and beyond.
"This is an important day for us," said PIFB CEO David Rhode, who has worked with MLB, clubs and players for a dozen years. "We're so focused on giving kids the opportunity to play. It's something so many of us took for granted. When you see the impact that giving a child who hasn't had a glove or bat or ball that [equipment] and the way their face lights up, and the possibilities that they express on their face, it really is a continual reminder of the impact of the work that we do."
Rhode told the volunteers: "We're going to make a huge mess, then we're going to organize that mess, and then you're going to feel great by the time we are done."
This was about the 500th such project already in 2017 for PIFB (@PitchInBaseball), a nonprofit organization that provides new and gently used baseball and softball equipment to boys and girls in the U.S. and around the world who want to play ball but may lack the equipment. PIFB reduces barriers to play and promotes youth development by providing equipment directly to leagues, schools and organizations around the world to start, continue and/or expand their programs.
Over the past 10 years, Pitch In For Baseball has donated more than $5 million worth of equipment to 500,000 under-resourced kids in nearly every state in the U.S. and 80 countries. Yankees All-Star reliever Dellin Betances recently worked with PIFB and other sponsors to provide equipment for nearly 100 kids in the Dominican Republic. Each year, the D-backs host intertribal youth baseball and softball tournaments for Native American kids ages 9-18, and PIFB helped the Sioux community in Rosebud, S.D., so they would have equipment to travel to that event. The Uganda Little League has grown from four to 30 schools who link academics and sports thanks to the help of PIFB. Such examples abound.
"Over 90 countries [and] several hundreds of thousands of kids have been affected positively by their fantastic efforts," said Tom Brasuell, MLB's vice president of community affairs. "[PIFB] started working originally with the Reds and Phillies on a club level, and they've worked with just about every club now over the last dozen years."
The RBI World Series was a natural backdrop for this equipment packing event, given the reason MLB started the RBI program in 1991. It is a youth outreach program designed to increase participation and interest in baseball and softball, encourage academic participation and achievement, increase the number of talented athletes prepared to play in college and pros, promote greater diversity in the mainstream of the game and teach the value of teamwork.
Many inner-city children do not have the financial resources to pursue their passion for baseball or softball. RBI not only offers these children a free opportunity to play ball, but it also pairs them with mentors as well as tutors who will help them succeed academically. The RBI program gives children of different age groups the opportunity to play in a competitive setting.
The Far Rockaway RBI League is sponsored by The Child Center of NY and partners with key stakeholders to bring organized baseball to the communities of Far Rockaway. North Newark RBI League is a chartered Little League that is located in New Jersey's District 8. Founded in 1955 as the St. Francis Xavier Baseball League, the North Newark League is comprised of more than 500 players participating on 38-plus teams and seven distinct divisions from ages 4-18.
PIFB is in the process of expanding, adding Pitch In For Softball to their repertoire. Legendary former UCLA softball player and coach Sue Enquist is among those leading the way.
"This is what our organization is all about," Rhode said of Thursday's event. "Pitch In For Baseball helps make sure kids in underresourced communities get the equipment they need to play. Today is our first event with Major League Baseball at [the Commissioner's Office], and ... it was a tremendous success."
To donate or to find out other ways to help, visit pifb.org. For more information on MLB's outreach efforts, visit MLBCommunity.org.
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Follow him @Marathoner and read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com/blogs hub. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.