2020 has been a challenging year for children across the country. Between virtual school, a lack of social opportunities, and the uncertainty in their day-to-day lives, productive outlets for kids have become increasingly vital.

After many sports leagues faced disruptions in their schedules, baseball and softball have begun to resume. With this comes new safety guidelines, requiring that children have their own equipment to use, rather than sharing gear, to prevent the spread of the virus. This places a greater financial burden on families, many of whom are already facing setbacks due to the pandemic.

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Tull Family Foundation have stepped in to help.

Their donations in partnership with Pitch In For Baseball & Softball impacted more than 2,000 boys and girls in leagues in Pennsylvania, and one program in West Virginia. 15 leagues were able to utilize the equipment for an abbreviated season in 2020, while six others were unable to play this year due to COVID-19 but hope to get back to the field in 2021.

In Pittsburgh, Carrick Youth Athletic Association was forced to reduce its number of teams down to seven this year. Due to COVID-19, the league was unable to have its yearly fundraisers, which bring in money to pay for equipment, stocking the concession stand, paying for umpires, and more.

With social distancing guidelines in place and limited opportunities for social engagement, recreation baseball and softball was the only thing that many kids had a chance to do this summer. A donation of baseballs, brand new sanitary catchers gear, and other equipment provided kids some relief, allowing the league to have a mini-season.

Hannah, Freeport Area Softball

At Freeport Area softball in Freeport, PA, 12-year-old Hannah wasn’t sure if she’d be as good at catching as she used to be. Hannah had been a catcher for five years before she was diagnosed with kidney reflux disease last summer and had to miss the softball season. In the meantime, she had also outgrown her catchers gear. Hannah was provided with a new set of gear from the donation, and came back to play with the 12U team this summer. She even played as a substitute player in the 14U bracket. With encouragement from her coaches and teammates, Hannah is gaining back her self-confidence.

Riley, a 12U player at Munhall Girls Softball in Munhall, PA, wanted to be a catcher. Prior to receiving the equipment grant, Riley was using gear that was too small and she was uncomfortable behind the plate. The donation made it possible for her to use the right gear, and she really excelled at her new position.

Homer-Center High School

Homer-Center High School Baseball in Homer City, PA, was able to provide one student with a new bat and helmet, which saved his family over $200. Another wanted to be a catcher and worked hard in the classroom in 2020 to get back on the field, but he didn’t have the gear to play the position. When the school was finally able to start its season, the donation allowed them to give the student the equipment he needed.

The funded program also helped support a child at Mohawk Baseball/Softball Association in New Castle, PA who had lost everything in a fire last year. The school and community supported him and his grandmother with donations of clothing, food, and money, and the league gave him baseball equipment for the season to help return some normalcy to the boy’s life. Mohawk Baseball/Softball Association often provides free equipment and reduced entry fees for boys and girls with economic hardship. They would have struggled to fulfill those benefits this year without the grant.

Over at Oil City Junior Baseball in Oil City, PA, the league was able to replace some very outdated equipment and provide equipment to low income families so that most kids had their own bat to use for the season. Likewise, several parents of the players at Saxonburg Area Baseball Association in Saxonburg, PA had lost jobs due to the pandemic, and were not able to afford the equipment for the children to play. Without the donation, two of its teams would not have been able to play at all this summer, as they had no catchers gear available.

Ava, Saxonburg Area Girls Softball Association

Receiving catchers gear also helped girls such as Ava and Taylor at Saxonburg Area Girls Softball Association, and the 14U team went on to a runner-up finish. The organization was faced with the possibility of having to increase registration costs to offset the cost of new gear, but thanks to the donation, they were able to keep registration fees at their 2019 levels while allowing each of their catchers to claim their own set of gear.

White Oak Athletic Association

A donation of baseballs to White Oak Athletic Association in White Oak, PA, saved the league money at a time when they were unable to hold fundraisers or generate income through concession stand sales. The grant allowed them to provide additional catchers equipment to teams in order to better comply with COVID-19 guidance. It also allowed them to provide better practices and drills, as they now had multiple batting tees available. 12-year-old Justin had been struggling at the plate, but was determined to break through. His dedication and hard work paid off this season, both offensively and defensively. The positive reinforcement and instruction he received would not have been possible this year without the support the program received.

Over the past 15 years, Pitch In For Baseball & Softball has helped more than 900,000 kids get on the field throughout the U.S. and internationally. This would not be possible if not for funded programs such as these, as well as support from our donors through individual contributions and collection drives.

If you have new or gently-used baseball or softball gear that could help give children the chance to play ball, please schedule a drop off here or email us at info@pifbs.org for more information.