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The Season for Giving: Through Pitch In For Baseball Organization, Leagues Embrace Equipment Donations

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (Feb. 8, 2007) – The typical Little League’s annual calendar includes the off-season, regular season and tournament season, but since 2005, many leagues have made the winter months their equipment-donation season.

In cooperation with Pitch In For Baseball, several local Little League programs have recognized the positive influence they can have in helping fellow Little Leagues remain viable in their communities. Through the non-profit organization, local leagues have provided more than 5,000 pieces of playing equipment and financial support to leagues in need.

“Local Little Leagues can really impact the game,” David Rhode, executive director of Pitch In For Baseball, said. “We are really pleased with the progress of our organization, and last year proved this concept really works.”

Pitch In For Baseball collects new and gently used youth baseball and softball equipment, which is sorted and redistributed to underserved or recently devastated chartered local Little League programs.

Little League has often become a cornerstone of communities throughout the United States and abroad. In the wake of several recent hurricanes, leagues in Louisiana, Alabama, Texas and Mississippi were all but washed away. Pitch In For Baseball provided a sense of hope to the children in those states by donating equipment to get their leagues up and running again.

Following the series of hurricanes that befell the U.S. Gulf Coast in the summer of 2005, Pitch In For Baseball filled a void as these areas took the first steps toward rebuilding their lives.

“Our primary focus is to help leagues in communities with a need,” Mr. Rhode said. “Our emphasis was to deliver equipment in the Gulf Coast states, and as an organization, I feel we are right on track.

“I’ve been surprised with the size of the donations,” he said. “We are getting generous donations of uniforms and equipment, and I believe the more we get the word out, there is almost no limit to what we can do.”

Pitch In For Baseball assisted 20 local programs in 2006, as nearly 60 Little Leagues donated equipment and much-needed funding to cover delivery costs. In January 2007, Mr. Rhode expects the organization to aid as many as 10 leagues.

One of the programs recently receiving assistance was Navy Ortega Lakeshore Little League in Jacksonville, Fla. Last summer the league lost all of its equipment in a fire and reached out to Pitch In for Baseball.

Upon delivery of the equipment and uniforms, Kevin Gay, a member of the local league’s board of directors said, “We are back in business.”

“One of the key volunteers in terms of equipment donations is the equipment managers at the local league level,” Mr. Rhode said. “We’ve found the biggest demand corresponded with the start of the Little League season. Last year, we saw a donation spike in February and March as leagues went through their inventory, received new items for the year, and decided what items could be donated.”

The organization’s presence on the internet at: http://www.pitchinforbaseball.org has served as word-of-mouth advertising, and prompted an assortment of donated goods from leagues, individuals and equipment manufacturers.

“Donations of equipment have been very strong,” Mr. Rhode said. “For a variety of reasons, people are willing to support our mission. There have been a tremendous number of people that have found us through the website. I encourage anyone who wants to help youth baseball and softball to contact us. The only thing holding us back is the financial support to meet the growing demand, and to help cover the warehousing and shipping costs.”

Items with the greatest demand by Pitch In For Baseball are youth-size team sets of uniforms (13 uniforms or more), catcher’s mitts, fielder’s gloves, umpire’s gear and bases. Leagues have come through with a myriad of catcher’s gear, batting helmets, bats, and baseballs.

Safety is the overriding variable in deciding if an item is worth donating. “The working definition of equipment worth donating is: something you would be willing to give to a friend or neighbor as a hand-me-down,” Mr. Rhode said.

Presently, Pitch In For Baseball is focused on assuring donations are delivered, and then replenishing its stock to keep the processes moving forward. The monetary donations have been critical, since those funds pay for shipping.

Along with the assistance provided to the Gulf Coast, Mr. Rhode said the organization has made donations to leagues outside of the United States, including Puerto Rico, Poland, Ghana, Slovenia; and leagues in urban areas that are chartered through Little League’s Urban Initiative.

“The general feeling from leagues when they first contact us is they didn’t know such an organization was available,” Mr. Rhode said. “After learning how easy it is to donate, they’re excited to help.

“We hope to engage more leagues in the future, and expand the types of programs we help,” he said. “We also encourage leagues that made a financial, or equipment donation in 2006 to make it an annual tradition of giving.”

For more information on Pitch In For Baseball contact Mr. Rhode at: 215-371-2841; or via e-mail at: drhode@pitchinforbaseball.org.
Since its founding in 2005, Pitch In For Baseball has provided more than 5,000 donated pieces of playing equipment to leagues around the world. The non-profit organization received donations of equipment and funding from 60 local Little Leagues in 2006, which went to benefit 20 local leagues.