Baseball and softball are sports that come with lots of gear — helmets, bats, gloves, catcher’s equipment, batting gloves, bags, etc. While many local Little League® programs provide shared equipment to meet some of the needs of their players, outfitting a Little Leaguer® can be a challenge for families to keep up with growing kids and financial limitations. However, we also know that a player having their own equipment can help them to feel included, especially at the younger age groups, and can also help to make sure equipment is properly sanitized and that leagues and families are following the CDC’s equipment guidelines.

Here are some tips for your league to help support the families in your community to make it easier, and more affordable, through an equipment drive.

Ask Parents to Donate Equipment

With lots of gear comes outdated and outgrown gear tucked in the corner of a garage or basement. As part of your league’s registration promotion, ask your parents to take inventory of their child’s gear and see what could be donated to the league to then distribute to other families in the league who may need it.

Coordinate the equipment drop-off to coincide with some of your earlier in-person activities at your league, whether that’s a parents’ meeting, in-person registration, or tryouts. Or select a secure, designated location where people can bring their gear at their convenience.

If your league is a recognized 501(c)3, which can be filed under Little League’s group exemption, these donations may also be tax deductible. Promoting the tax deduction and providing a receipt for donations may help incentivize families to supply gear, but, that tax deduction process should be confirmed by your league’s attorney or financial advisor before using as an incentive.

Inspect and Clean the Donations

All gear that is donated should be inspected by your league’s Umpire-in-Chief for safety and to make sure it meets Little League’s rules and regulations, prior to being prepared for a new family. Learn more about how to inspect baseball and softball bats, as well as helmets and catcher’s equipment.

In terms of safety, below are some general guidelines on what is considered unusable:

  • Bats are considered not playable if they are cracked, broken, or bowed
  • Baseballs/softballs that are waterlogged or with seams torn are not usable
  • Catchers Gear
    • Masks are not considered safe if: missing padding within helmet or chin area, cracks within shell of the helmet, or missing screws that are not replaceable.
    • Leg Guards – straps are missing, waterlogged, or cracked
    • Chest protectors – missing straps, moldy, or waterlogged
  • Helmets should not be utilized if they meet any of the following:
    • Missing Padding
    • Missing facemask (softball) without a replacement option
    • Cracks (generally found around ear flap)
    • Contain mold or waterlogged.
    • Helmet (with attached cage) is missing screws that are not replaceable.

Once the gear is inspected, and has been approved for Little League play, all surfaces of each piece of equipment should be cleaned first and then disinfected with an EPA-approved disinfectant against COVID-19 and allowed sufficient time to dry. Individuals disinfecting equipment are encouraged to use gloves while using disinfectants and follow the manufacturer’s directions for use. All disinfectants should be stored properly, in a safe area, out of reach of children.

Distribute the Gear to Families

Once the gear is collected and ready to live on with a new Little Leaguer, leagues can distribute it in a number of ways.

  • If a league has the facility space with secure storage, it may be as simple as having a “gear closet” that families can visit when they’re at the complex to pick up or even drop off gear at their leisure.
  • Leagues can also organize a specific day where all the equipment is available, which could be part of an existing event or a new standalone event for the league. Leagues should make sure to promote the “shopping” day with the families in their leagues. Leagues could ask for a modest financial donation, or price items at “thrift shop” prices, as well, as a potential fundraiser. However, keep in mind that the main goal is to support families in need with equipment.
  • It is also encouraged to allow families the opportunity to pick up donated gear privately to ensure their privacy is withheld as they may not want their children, or other families in the league, to know they may be facing financial hardships.

Connect with Pitch In For Baseball & Softball

Little League has partnered with Pitch In For Baseball & Softball since 2005 to remove equipment as a barrier to participation for Little Leaguers around the globe.  Pitch In For Baseball & Softball (PIFBS) reduces barriers to play and promotes youth development by providing equipment directly to leagues, including chartered Little League programs, and community organizations around the world. The equipment helps these teams and leagues stretch their budgets further to start, continue, and/or expand their baseball or softball programs.  Since its inception, PIFBS has helped nearly 1,000,000 kids play ball who otherwise would not have had the opportunity.

Leagues are encouraged to support PIFBS by donating any gear that is left over from your equipment drive that might be able to support other programs. If there are additional needs for equipment in your league, you can also apply for support from PIFBS.