MLB’s San Diego Padres Launch Uniform Donation Program
Thousands of SoCal Little Leaguers Wearing Padre Jerseys in 2012
It is common for Little Leaguers to emulate their Major League heroes. In the San Diego suburb of Chula Vista, such role playing has become a reality of sorts with the support of the Major League Baseball’s hometown Padres.
As part of its vigorous community outreach program, the Padres organization, Park View Little League and other leagues throughout California’s District 42 have entered into an agreement whereby all of the Little League teams, in divisions for players, league-age 11-and-under, will wear Padre Team jerseys.
“The Padres invite area Little Leagues to their games all of the time,” Roderick Roberto, President of Park View Little League, said. “Last year, at the Padres annual ‘Little League Day’ 8,000 Little Leaguers showed up dressed in all of their different uniforms. I think that’s where the idea to dress players in Padre Team colors came from.”
Tom Garfinkel, the Padres’ current President and CEO, contacted Mr. Roberto at the end of last season to discuss the uniform program.
“The idea for the program came about last year during our annual Little League Day at Petco Park,” Mr. Garfinkel said. “When I saw thousands of kids parading around the warning track in jerseys from different Major League teams, and even some universities, and I thought that every one of those kids should be a Padre.
“This program is an extension of our longstanding support of youth baseball and softball, and a new way for us to connect our past and our present with our future,” Mr. Garfinkel said of the Padres Youth Baseball Initiative. “To see 20 different styles of jerseys spanning our organization’s history on teams throughout the county is a visible representation of our history and our connection to this community.”
The San Diego Padres joined the National League as an expansion team in 1969. In 43 seasons, the team has made five playoff appearances, played in two World Series, and altered its uniform designs 32 times.
With such an assortment of colors and styles, the possibility of dressing all the younger Little League players as Padres, while still being able to recognize one team from another, was not as daunting a task as one might think.
When the MLB club approached Park View Little League with the idea of dressing players as Padres, the plan was to just have the novelty of the tee ball players wearing the uniforms. However, as Mr. Roberto explained, the outreach of the program was quickly extended to all minor divisions in the Park View Little League, and other Little Leagues throughout the district.
As part of Padres Youth Baseball Initiative, Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres, Park View Little League and other leagues throughout California’s District 42 have entered into an agreement whereby all of the Little League teams, in divisions for players, league-age 11-and-under, are wearing Padre Team jerseys. Photo Courtesy of Derrick Tuskan/San Diego Padres
“In the beginning, the Padres were going to start with tee ball teams,” Mr. Roberto, who has been Park View Little League president for four years, said. “Then they did a survey throughout District 42 and found out there were more than 10,000 Little Leaguers playing baseball.”
As part of the survey, the Padres asked for a general dollar figure that each league allotted for the annual purchase of uniforms. In Park View’s case, with its average player enrollment of between 500-and-600 players, Mr. Roberto estimated that the league would spend approximately $8-to-10,000 on uniform-related items (primarily jerseys and hats).
“We have several goals for this program,” Mr. Garfinkel said. “We want to make a notable financial impact for participating leagues, allowing them to utilize funds for improvements rather than uniforms.
“We also hope to create an emotional connection to the Padres and our community for these Little Leaguers,” Mr. Garfinkel said. ”The players are so excited to be Padres, and to be emulating our Major League players. We believe these Little Leaguers are the next generation of Padres fans.”
The Padres were willing to offset the cost of purchasing uniforms through this donation program. The only requirement of each league was for it to report what other projects would be able to be completed with the funds that would have otherwise been earmarked for uniforms.
Mr. Roberto said the money his league saved went toward renovation at the league’s five fields and offsetting registration fees. He knows of other leagues in the district that have improved their concession stands and done much-needed field maintenance with the funds saved by way of the Padres uniform program.
”In our league we have four minor divisions for players league-age 4-11,” Mr. Roberto said. “With 10 tee ball teams, 26 other teams at different divisions of the Minors, and 13 players per team, having the Padres provide the uniforms and hats was huge for us.”
“We have already heard a lot of positive feedback about how the leagues are able to use the funds they are saving,” Mr. Garfinkel said. “Instead of allocating the money to jerseys and caps, the leagues have been able to make improvements to their snack bars, which allows each to generate more revenue, as well as make improvements to their fields and scoreboards, which benefit the entire league. “
Mr. Roberto said the Padres also made sure not to forget about the managers and coaches.
“The Padres provided us with real MLB-approved team jerseys from Majestic and matching baseball hats,” he said. “The only thing the jerseys did not come with was numbers. We also received matching hats and tee shirts for the coaches. All we had to do was put on the numbers, Little League patches and our own Park View Little League patch.”
For many years, the San Diego Padres have embraced Little leagues throughout Southern California. Three seasons ago, when the Park View Little Leaguers won the 2009 Little League Baseball World Series, Mr. Roberto said one of the first congratulatory phone calls he received was from the Jeff Moorad, who was the Padres President and Chief Executive Officer at the time.
“I was open to the idea of having all our league’s teams be Padres,” Mr. Roberto said. “With so many different Padres uniforms, the only problem we would have would be identifying who is playing who on the schedule.”
Mr. Roberto said he took the proposal to his board of directors, which voted unanimously in support of the three-year agreement. The scheduling solution proved to be an easy fix, as now the Park View Little League schedule has the 1969 Padres playing the 1975 Padres, and so on.
“We are the Park View Padres, which is OK with us,” Mr. Roberto, an 11-year member of the Park View Little League Board of Directors, said. “The players were told about uniforms during registration and the parents were all excited.
“My son, Cody, who is 10 and a minor division player, said, he wanted to wear the Padres’ new 2012 uniform,” Mr. Roberto said.
Along with the team jerseys the players also received a free membership in the Junior Padres Club.
At the Padres 2012 Opening Day on April 4, there were 100 Little Leaguers from District 42 invited to Petco Park. The players, dressed in an assortment of Padre uniforms, were on the field for pregame festivities.