Pitch In For Baseball Coordinates Equipment Delivery to Little Leagues in Tsunami-Ravaged Japan
On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced the fifth-largest earthquake recorded since 1900. The powerful, magnitude 9.0 quake hit northeastern Japan, triggering a tsunami with 10-meter-high waves that devastated several cities across the Japanese mainland. Amidst the destruction, many Little Leagues were left in ruin.
Kenji Kimura, the Country Director for the Japan Little League program and a former member of the Little League International Board of Directors, was vital in assessing the areas of greatest need and coordinating with Pitch In For Baseball (PIFB), a Philadelphia-based charity, regarding the acquisition of new and “gently used” playing equipment.
Since 2005, Pitch In For Baseball (PIFB) has delivered more than 150,000 pieces of equipment and uniforms assisting in excess of 115,000 children in need. As the country-wide damage was accessed, it became apparent that there were many leagues that could be helped by PIFB.
“Kenji helped us identify four leagues and their pressing equipment needs,” Patrick W. Wilson, Senior Vice President of Operations and Program Development, said. “Through Kenji, the efforts of Pitch In For Baseball and the generosity of the Major League Baseball players, hundreds of Japanese children will be able to continue to play and enjoy Little League.”
In a collaborative effort that involved the Major League Baseball Players Association, PIFB has helped restart Japanese youth baseball in the tsunami-affected areas, through the purchase and shipment of new equipment to four Little League programs in Myagi prefecture.
Utilizing a grant from the Major League Baseball Players Trust, Pitch In For Baseball purchased and packaged complete sets of equipment for each of the designated recipient organizations while Heart to Heart International coordinated with FedEx provide shipping and logistics support.
“Immediately after we became aware of the earthquake and tsunami, we wanted to do something to help, but didn’t have a plan,” David Rhode, Executive Director for Pitch In For Baseball, said. “Through Kenji we received a damage assessment and using the funds provided by the Major League Baseball Players Trust, plans involving the equipment came together after Labor Day.”
The distribution of the equipment began Nov. 12 when Major League pitcher (Milwaukee Brewers) and Ishinomaki native Takashi Saito personally delivered bats, balls, gloves and catchers’ gear.
“When the boxes were cut open, each league immediately had what they needed to go play,” Mr. Rhode said. “The deliveries to the Little Leagues contained baseball bats, batting helmets baseballs, gloves, catcher’s gear and uniform pants.”
Of the more than 7,200 Little Leagues chartered throughout the World, 301 are in Japan. The island nation, which is a member of Little League’s Asia-Pacific Region, is third behind the United States and Canada for total number of leagues. Nearly 12,000 Japanese children under the age of 12 participated on more than 780 teams during the 2011 season, including the country’s first Challenger Division team for children with physical and developmental disabilities.
“I played in Japan both as a college all-star and an American League all-star,” Roy Smalley III, Board President for Pitch In For Baseball, said. “If baseball is our national pastime, then it is Japan’s national obsession. Anything we can do to help the children of Japan enjoy baseball uninterrupted is what we want to do.”
This project marked the first donation partnership between the Major League Baseball Players Trust and Pitch In For Baseball.
“This type of donation was new for PIFB,” Mr. Rhode said. “It was different because we had funding and multiple partners (Heart to Heart, FedEx and the MLB Players Trust). Normally, we are driving all of the decisions. This time, it was more collaborative and proved to be a nice opportunity to see what we could do with more.”
Nearly 12,000 Japanese children under the age of 12 participated on more than 780 teams during the 2011 Little League season, including the country’s first Challenger Division team for children with physical and developmental disabilities.
“On behalf of all Major Leaguers, I would like to thank Pitch In For Baseball for facilitating the Trust’s baseball equipment purchase and efforts to get the Japanese youth playing baseball again,” Melissa Persaud, Director of the MLB Players Trust, said.
Pitch In For Baseball has been assisting kids and communities in need since 2005, many of those efforts in the form of disaster relief. PIFB has provided much needed baseball and softball equipment following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike. The Philadelphia-based organization has also provided equipment to a number of baseball and softball programs in Joplin, Mo., and in Mississippi following tornadoes and other severe weather in Spring 2011.
In addition to its work when Mother Nature impacts a youth baseball community, Pitch In For Baseball works closely with communities around the United States and around the world seeking to help give kids a chance to participate in the games of baseball and softball.
“Our relationships with our strategic partners like Little League International, and Major League Baseball give us the ability to connect with a qualified and trusted community-based group in almost every town in the United States and in most countries in the world,” Mr. Rhode said. “Much of the equipment we receive—some new, some gently used—is from kids and youth baseball organizations who share our passion for the game.”
Those wanting to support Pitch In For Baseball’s efforts can make a donation of equipment or financial support by going to www.pitchinforbaseball.org. “We need to build our supply of equipment so that we can continue to say ‘yes’ whenever and wherever the need arises,” Mr. Rhode said.