The COVID-19 pandemic not only halted youth sports seasons across the country, but has also increased the barriers for children in underserved communities to play the game safely.
Pitch In For Baseball & Softball is working to ease the burden. On Saturday, November 14th, PIFBS hosted a drive-through equipment distribution for Philadelphia schools who were previously approved for an equipment grant through a program funded by the Philadelphia Phillies and Springfield Township Rotary.
PIFBS staff were joined by rotary club members and a representative of the Phillies to hand out nearly $100,000 worth of gear at the event in Harleysville, including baseballs, BBCOR bats, catchers gear, gloves, cleats, and team bags.
“We definitely want to make sure that we can close that play equity gap,” said Jon Joaquin, the Phillies Director of Youth Baseball Development.
“It does cost a lot of money to play this sport, but when you have people like Pitch In For Baseball & Softball, and what we do with the Phillies in the community, it helps take away some of that cost and gives these kids an opportunity to be outside, have fun, get some physical activity. That’s something that’s going to be really healthy for them.”
The event served to safely distribute equipment to 75 teams, which will benefit approximately 1,300 children ages 11-18 across the Philadelphia area.
Equipment grants were originally scheduled for distribution in March, before schools were forced to cancel their 2020 seasons due to COVID-19. The equipment will now assist area schools in restarting their baseball and softball programs in 2021. The availability of additional gear will help ensure safety, limiting the need for students to share team equipment.
“We packed these equipment bags back in March, ready to go ready for action, and if you can believe it two weeks later that’s when everything was just kind of shut down,” said Bill Piszek, a member of Springfield Township Rotary and the PIFBS Board of Directors. “These bags have been waiting for good homes for that length of time, and so today it’s good to see the smiles on the faces of people getting their equipment that they’ll need eventually for their leagues.”
Piszek emphasized how need is even greater now in light of COVID-19.
“It is important because what happens is in a lot of cases now, individual players have to have individual items. They have to have their own glove, have to have their own helmet, hat.
“Two years ago, we could send five helmets to a club and that would be enough, and now every player must have their own. So that puts a little more pressure on us making sure we collect enough equipment to do that.”
PIFBS’ Philadelphia School Based Program was established in 2008. This year the program was funded by both the Philadelphia Phillies and Springfield Township Rotary, each of whom has supported PIFBS mission throughout its 15-year existence.
Over the past six years, the Philadelphia School Based program has helped more than 5,000 boys and girls participate on their school baseball and softball teams, and their investment in sports has carried over to the classroom.
From 2014-19, approximately 73% of student athletes involved in these programs showed improvements in their school attendance, and 72% improved their academic scores.
“Once they’re introduced to the sport, many times they fall in love with the game,” said Paul Rieser, Athletic Director of Tacony Academy Charter School. “Kids that are marginal students sometimes will become better students because they want to play baseball, and the two kind of mold together.”
“The more opportunity we’re able to give our kids, we’re able to support them academically, and behaviorally in the school.”
“This equipment is very important to us because it allows us to maximize the amount of kids that we can have participate in our programs,” said John Seman, the Athletic Director of ASPIRA Schools, which encompasses Antonia Pantoja Charter, John B. Stetson Charter, Olney Charter High School, and Eugenio Maria de Hostos Charter.
Founded in 2005, Pitch In For Baseball & Softball has donated more than $10 million worth of equipment to 900,000+ kids across every state in the U.S. and 100 countries.
If you have new or gently-used baseball or softball gear that you could donate to kids play ball all over the world, please schedule a drop off here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.