Pitch In For Baseball & Softball has joined forces with Wilson Sporting Goods on a number of important projects over the years, including a series of packing and distribution events to assist schools in Chicago, IL, home of Wilson’s headquarters.

In 2018 and 2019, PIFBS and Wilson teamed up for a Softball Signature Project, distributing much-needed equipment to 30 school softball programs throughout the city of Chicago.

In April 2018, Wilson Sporting Goods funded PIFBS’ initial softball project in the city. PIFBS worked with representatives from the Chicago Public School system to identify 20 high school softball teams that were in need of equipment.

Together, PIFBS and Wilson employees took part in a packing event, unpacking, sorting, and packaging dozens of team kits for the city’s high school teams. These kits included an equipment bag, helmets, softballs, catcher’s gear, gloves, bats, arm sleeves, and batting gloves.

After the equipment was packaged, several Chicago schools joined the PIFBS and Wilson staffs at a distribution event hosted at Wilson Sporting Goods. Players and coaches from those schools received their equipment, and employees from Wilson later hand-delivered equipment to additional schools the following week.

At Orr Academy, head softball coach Georgia Robinson said she noticed increased confidence in the girls as the season progressed. Most of the team was made up of freshmen, but once the team received the equipment from PIFBS and Wilson, Robinson saw an increase in participation and dedication at practice. They were able to get more girls to come out for the team because they had more gloves, something the school otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford despite fundraising efforts in the past.

At Bowen High School, Cierra was hesitant about joining softball, despite being involved in several other sports programs throughout the year. After attending the event at Wilson headquarters, she became much more excited about the sport and the upcoming season. She was a first-time player, and agreed to learn how to pitch. Cierra became her team’s primary pitcher, and served as a motivator for her teammates.

Phillips High School also saw more girls participate in softball in 2019. Same for Uplift High School, where despite coming from varying backgrounds and means, the girls had an opportunity to bond as a unit as they all benefitted from the same sturdy, new equipment.

Ian Ballogg, softball coach at Wells High School, said his team improved from having gloves for every student, instead of having players share a glove. Their catcher’s equipment was also in rough condition prior to receiving the new donation. “All of the additional equipment helped contribute to the bonding of the team and the ‘buy in’” Ballogg said. “Students felt like we had a quality program, and were very proud of that everywhere we went.”

Meghan, then a senior at Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, said, “We don’t receive the same funding as a lot of the schools we play, so our equipment is lacking compared to other high schools.” She said this had hurt the team’s performance, but receiving the equipment donation made a huge difference. “Our new gloves made it easier to field and catch balls without having them pop out of our gloves. Playing second base has a lot of different jobs and you’re always moving somehow. Fielding the ball is hard when your mitt isn’t as sturdy. Catching fly balls is even harder because I’m always nervous that the ball might fall out of the mitt, costing us the out. When using the new mitt, I had so much more confidence when catching pop ups.”

The donations in 2018 and 2019 each totaled more than $30,000 worth of brand new gear, helping over 600 girls at 30 schools in Chicago. In 2019, students in attendance at the event also had an opportunity to hear from Wilson employees about their journeys to working at Wilson, and what their jobs entail.

In both 2018 and 2019, girls who participated in softball at these respective schools showed significant improvements in grades and attendance. More than 70% each year improved their grades, while over 60% showed improved classroom attendance.

In addition to the distribution events, PIFBS and Wilson also help fund softball and baseball at Chicago schools through Wilson’s Glove of the Month program. Beginning in 2017, Wilson has unveiled a limited edition A2K or A2000 glove each month that is only available in select stores.

Proceeds from the Glove of the Month program are reinvested into Chicago school-based baseball and softball programs.