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Local Organization Makes Baseball Accessible to Kids Around the World
Written by Kelly Chandler Staff Writer
2016-03-09

The Taft High School Eagles softball team was one of 10 Bronx baseball and softball teams to receive new helmets, gloves and bats through Pitch In for Baseball and the New York Yankees Feb. 26.  The Yankees donated $150,000 to PIFB in exchange for Alex Rodriguez's 3,000th career hit ball, snagged by Zack Hample, far left.  Far right is PIFB Exective Director David Rhode.

Pitch In For Baseball donates new and used baseball and softball equipment to those in need

        With a taste of spring-like temperatures this week, anyone enamored with the game of baseball starts getting the itch to take to the field.  But for many kids living in poverty, who don't have access to a glove, ball or bat, that itch can't be scratched.

        That is, until Pitch In For Baseball (PIFB) gets involved.

        The Harleysville-based non-profit has made it its mission to connect communities, both here in the US and abroad, with the equipment they need to enjoy the game no matter what their means. 

        PIFB Founder and Executive Director David Rhode started the organization back in 2005 after finding there were no groups out there doing the work he believes is vital.      

        "Really for me it was an intersection of my personal passion for sports and a desire to share that passion with kids who needed it," he said.  "It was my opportunity to leave a mark on the world in my own way and make a difference.

        "I wanted to make sure this void got filled."

        He began by collecting baseball and softball equipment from those who no longer wanted or needed it.  As kids grew up and out of their gear, or teams no longer needed items, they donated it to PIFB to benefit others.  Donations of new gear and monetary contributions also followed.  A warehouse on Gehman Road in Harleysville became the group's storage site and base of operations. 

        "It's a situation where many of us take for granted you can play a sport because you have a glove, etc.," Rhode said.  "In many of these places, especially internationally, we find out that is the first thing that kid has had of their own.  It gives them self-confidence and self-worth; a sense of belonging that they haven't been able to have before.

        "In the US, kids feel connected to their friends.  We help coaches be able to say, 'We're starting practices and we have a glove for you.'  It's giving kids a chance to be kids.  On some level, that can't be overstated.  Kids should get to run around play and be carefree." 

        In addition to private donors, PIFB partners with Wilson Sporting Goods, who both provides large-scale equipment donations as well as sells to the organization at deep discounts.  Rhode called them an incredibly generous partner who allows the organization to stretch their limited budget.  Over the past year, Wilson has donated more than $200,000 worth of equipment.   

        The non-profit, under the leadership of its president and former Major League all-star Roy Smalley III, has also worked with the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees, as well as former Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who did a public service announcement for PIFB.  They routinely partner with Little League Baseball and Softball, as well as charities like the Mattingly Charities, whom they will work alongside this year to reach out to children with disabilities.

        If you ask Rhode, he will tell you the organization has come a long way since their first project in 2005.  Back then PIFB stepped in a few short weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.  In New Orleans, LA and Biloxi, MS and throughout Alabama, Rhode and his volunteers distributed equipment they collected to teams and children who had lost everything in the storm.

        After saltwater damage destroyed much of what was left in equipment sheds on the fields, the teams needed new baseballs, gloves, bats, cleats, and pants to get back on the field.

        "Baseball and softball gives kids a sense of normalcy.  In the case where there's been a natural disaster, it's therapeutic.  For us to play a role in that is a great privilege.  It's very special," Rhode said.

        Currently, the organization has helped equip more than 500,000 kids to play baseball or softball in more than 80 countries.  In Uganda, several years ago, they began donating gear which eventually led to the establishment of the Uganda Little League.  The Uganda team made it to the Little League World series in Williamsport in 2015.  No stores sell baseball equipment in that country and PIFB is the only vehicle to get that equipment inside its borders.

PIFB also provides assistance in foreign countries through Peace Corps volunteers, US Embassies and even the US military.

        "The sheer numbers are beyond anything I ever imagined," Rhode said.  "In a lot of those places it's the same kind of storyline, but for that community, that coach and those kids, it's really special that someone is willing to help them."

        So how can you help?  Rhode said aside from financial support, which provides for shipping, warehouse rentals and to buy equipment not donated, PIFB is always in need of gloves. All the equipment donated to PIFB has to be in safe, playable condition.  It can be dropped off during the week or on a designated Saturday each month, at their 1541 Gehman Road, Harleysville facility.  

        He encouraged kids and adults to get involved. 

        "Get engaged in something making an immediate impact.  What you give us today might be in a box tomorrow on its way someplace.  It's really motivating.  It'll be put to good use.  It's also a great way for parents to get their kids involved in philanthropy.  You don't have to have a lot of means to make an impact. 

        "We want to encourage people to get involved because this is a winning story."

        For more information on Pitch In for Baseball, visit www.pifb.org, find them on Facebook, Twitter, @pitchinbaseball, or call (267)263-4069.  


 

 

 

 

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