Each year, the Major League Baseball (MLB) Groundskeepers assemble in January to discuss best practices and industry issues. The conference, sponsored by the Toro Company, Covermaster, Inc. and Turface Athletics, includes a field day during which the groundskeepers renovate a youth field in the surrounding community. This unique “day of service” on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day has been a tradition for the MLB groundskeepers for more than 10 years.
This year, Pinellas Park High School in Largo, Florida was selected as the site of a major field renovation as part of the 2010 MLB Groundskeepers Conference in Clearwater Beach, which took place from January 16-18. Groundskeepers from 22 MLB Clubs were in attendance.
The renovation of the baseball field was funded by a $40,000 grant from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, $15,000 grants from Phillies Charities and the Rays Baseball Foundation, and through equipment, material and labor donations from the MLB Groundskeepers, the Toro Company, Covermaster Inc., Turface Athletics and other local companies.
Beginning in April 2009 and culminating with final touches by the MLB Groundskeepers on January 18, the field renovation involved re-grading the entire field, installing warning tracks, irrigation, wind screen, adding foul poles and a flag pole for installation, re-building home plate and pitchers mounds and building double bullpen mounds. In addition, Pinellas County Schools recently completed the installation of a safety netting system and a Musco Lighting system at the field. The selection of Pinellas Park High School was based on field conditions, use and on-going field maintenance considerations.
The day concluded with a dedication ceremony that included Mike Boekholder, head groundskeeper for the Philadelphia Phillies who spearheaded the renovation, officials from the Pinellas County School District, representatives from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, the Rays Baseball Foundation, conference sponsors and Field Day contributors.
“We deeply appreciate the support of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund and the MLB Groundskeepers,” said John Johnston, Pinellas Park High School principal. “Pinellas Park High School has a strong passion and love for the game of baseball. This renovation will make a lasting positive impact on not just our own players, but on players from our community and local little league organizations. We are delighted to team up with Major League Baseball for this field renovation, and we commend them for their commitment to making baseball accessible to everyone.”
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund sends a special thanks to all of the MLB Groundskeepers, Phillies Charities, the Rays Baseball Foundation, conference sponsors and Field Day contributors for supporting youth baseball!
Kids Gear, Red Sox Fully Equipped
The 2009 baseball season marked the fifth year of the BTF/MLB Equipment Day program. Every year BTF teams up with MLB Clubs to collect new and used equipment at Major League ballparks prior to select home games. The equipment is then donated to local youth baseball or softball organizations of the Clubs’ choice. In addition, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund awards a $5,000 grant to a youth baseball or softball organization in each participating market. Collections take place in all Major League markets.
One of the most effective drives during the 2009 season was the Boston Red Sox collection. The drive resulted in nearly 1,200 pieces of equipment collected – good for the 4th highest total amongst the 29 participating Clubs. The Red Sox have taken part in Equipment Day since its inception in 2005 and have routinely had successful drives. The Red Sox chose Kids Gear for Baseball in Lynnfield, MA as their recipient.
Former Red Sox Pitcher (and current Cleveland Indian) Justin Masterson presents BTF check to Jim Chisholm and his daughters, Kaitlyn and Kelsey, at Fenway Park.
Meet Kids Gear for Baseball-Boston Director Jim Chisholm
Kids Gear for Baseball is a non-profit community volunteer program that collects quality used baseball equipment from affluent communities and distributes it to organizations serving children in need. The Red Sox and Kids Gear for Baseball collected nearly 1,200 pieces of equipment, making their drive one of the years most successful. Kids Gear for Baseball director Jim Chisholm took a few minutes to discuss the drive:
BTF: The Boston Red Sox equipment drive was one of the year’s most successful. What do you attribute to the success of this year’s drive?
Jim: The 2009 equipment drive was our best ever, the weather cooperated, the volunteers were enthusiastic and the Red Sox did an excellent job getting the word out early and often. The high-light of the collection was a visit from Red Sox owner John Henry.
BTF: When did your relationship with the Boston Red Sox begin and how did it start?
Jim: Kids Gear for Baseball has been associated with the Red Sox for the past six years. The organization was started by another family in our town of Lynnfield.
BTF: What are some key tips and strategies to coordinating a successful equipment drive?
Jim: Three big things:
- Organization: It is important for us to be prepared prior to arriving at the park. We now have it down to a science.
- Enthusiasm: Our volunteers are enthusiastic and are appreciative. They are also very visible, wearing yellow Kids Gear Shirts.
- Publicity: The Red Sox organization does a very good job alerting the public about the collection. They make announcements regularly leading up to the collection day on both TV and Radio. We also appear on the Red Sox Calendar and on the Jumbotron.
BTF: What do the kids and volunteers take away from this experience?
Jim: It is a very exciting day; a few of the kids had never attended a game at Fenway Park. The Children who volunteer for the collection got a firsthand look at the generosity of Red Sox Nation. It is a lot of work but they know that their efforts are going to a great cause, allowing kids who are less fortunate a chance to play baseball!.
BTF: What does the partnership with the Boston Red Sox, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association mean to your organization?
Jim: Everything, we are a small grassroots organization; however, we have enabled thousands of kids in the greater Boston area to play baseball. Without the support of all three organizations it would be virtually impossible to get the word out and rally support for our organization. The three organizations have been very generous with their time, support and money allowing our family to give back to the community.
BTF: Why are programs like Kids Gear for Baseball-Boston so critical in our communities?
Jim: We see every year the effect Kids Gear has first hand. The organizations we donate the equipment to are very appreciative and their appreciation is overwhelming. Last year we had a veteran’s home from Charlestown, MA attend the equipment distribution. We were able to outfit their entire program. A few days later I received a thank you note from the veterans expressing their gratitude. Over the past several years we have donated thousands of gloves, bats, balls, uniforms to under privileged kids in the greater Boston area.
BTF: How cool was it to receive the BTF check at Fenway Park?
Jim: The Best!! It gives my family a feeling of accomplishment and pride that we have been able to do something to give back. We love the game of baseball and are fortunate to be recognized for our efforts and hope that in some small way we have made a difference.
Welcome to BTF Today, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund’s (BTF) new blog dedicated to those involved in youth baseball and softball programs and facilities.
The Baseball Tomorrow Fund is a joint initiative of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) to promote youth participation in baseball and softball around the world. BTF awards grants to non-profit and tax-exempt organizations involved in programs and facilities.
On BTF Today, you will find exclusive interviews with youth baseball and softball community and industry leaders, news updates from BTF events, video news clips and photos from media events and field renovation and construction projects. We will also share resource information and best practices for grant seeking, fundraising, field maintenance and other topics.
For more information on the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, please visit us at www.baseballtomorrowfund.com.