This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
by Dan Hampton
Thirty-seven Philadelphia schools received nearly $100,000 worth of baseball and softball equipment from the Harleysville, Pa.-based nonprofit, Pitch In for Baseball (PIFB).
The organization, which makes donations to underserved communities worldwide, gave away boxes of new and gently used baseball and softball equipment to an eager crowd of coaches and players at District headquarters Monday afternoon. Players walked away with gloves, bats, helmets, balls, catchers’ gear, bases, batting tees, and equipment bags.
The District has received donations from PIFB for the last five years, said Robert Coleman, executive director of athletics for the District.
“We invite them to our athletic directors’ meeting, we survey our directors and see what they need, and they submit, and Pitch In for Baseball provides,” he said. “They’ve been an awesome clean-up batter.”
Coleman said the program takes away the stress and worry of whether the players have not only enough equipment, but also quality equipment. Each piece has received a seal of safety from the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment, and the bats all fall within the National Federation of State High School Associations’ regulations, Coleman said.
Among the schools that will receive the donations are Martin Luther King High School, Bartram High School, Delaware Valley Charter High School, High School of the Future, and Roxborough High School. In total, the schools will receive about 4,000 pieces of equipment.
Tom Schoenfelder, PIFB’s director of operations, said the program has special meaning for him.
“I played baseball my entire life [so] when people call on a daily basis saying we don’t have gloves, for someone like myself [who] grew up in the suburbs, it’s about giving them the opportunity to play the game I grew up playing and loving.”
Many of the donations have come from residents living in the suburbs of Philadelphia who wanted to see their equipment given to needy schools, Schoenfelder said.
“They know there is a need with the Philadelphia schools and they want the stuff to stay home in Philly,” he said.
Most coaches said they needed catchers’ gear, but some kids needed the most basic of equipment, such as gloves.
Wade King, baseball coach at John Bartram High School in Southwest Philadelphia, said now that the school is receiving the donations, one of his players no longer has to borrow his glove to play.
Duane Ramer, athletic director at Martin Luther King High School in North Philadelphia, said that with many students from now-closed Germantown High School now attending King, the increase in players created a shortage of available sporting equipment. That’s when the school turned to PIFB.
“We got new uniforms [from the Office of Athletics], but we didn’t get much else,” Ramer said. “We asked for a little bit of everything [from Pitch In for Baseball] because that’s what we needed.”
Dan Hampton is an intern at the Notebook.