This is not an easy article for me to write. It isn’t that he subject is hard but just having the right words to write down is difficult. Baseball organizations at the college, summer leagues, minor leagues and major league level all have responsibilities. The obvious responsibility is to put a competitive team on the field. However, a responsibility that is just as important, if not more so, is to give back and to impact the community.
Recently I got to sit down and talk with a leader from one of the local baseball organizations and what he shared with me was amazing to hear, and goes right along with this. He said that this season they had gotten so focused on putting on the games that they had missed a chance to impact the community as much as they desired to do. He made it clear that their goal was to change that this upcoming season and offseason. They wanted to have a greater impact in the community along with striving to put a winning team on the field.
This is a huge thing for me and honestly I think way too many teams fail to think this way and be a positive influence in their local community. I’ve seen some that have no impact in their community, which is sad.
I don’t know if teams fail to realize just how important it is to make an impact in a community. First it helps out the community and gives the team a positive name. Second, it helps to build loyalty and appreciation for the team which can increase attendance.
Giving back to the community can be a little challenging for summer league teams, whether they are college wood bat leagues or minor league teams. Players aren’t there during the offseason and most of these teams don’t even know who is going to be there until right before the season. Then once the season starts it can feel like you barely have time to do anything except wake up, go to the ball park, play the game and then go home to sleep some more.
There are ways to still have a positive impact during the offseason and during the season.
One of the things that blows my mind is how baseball teams seem to go into hibernation from September to May. Then question why fans don’t flock out to the stadium from day one of the season. In one city I lived in I wore a local teams hat and in July and August had people asking me if the team had started playing games yet. The season was a month and half in and people were so disconnected to the team they didn’t even know they were playing.
Running clinics is an easy way to provide opportunities for the community to stay connected to the team and benefit from knowledgeable coaches. Even if there is a fee for the clinics this is a great way to continue building baseball. Also for the kids that are at the clinics, they are kept busy and not out getting into trouble. Which if you talk to a lot of people who play sports they will be honest that if they weren’t at practice or games they would have probably been out getting into trouble.
FanFest events are a great thing for a community. If you can get in some current or former major league players it can be really exciting. Plus you can set up baseball stations at a fanfest for smaller kids, bring in vendors to sell cards, gear and even food. Even a simple fanfest can be a great thing for a community and a team.
Collecting gear to be given out to kids in need is great way to not only get the community involved but to also make a positive impact on families that can’t afford to purchase all of the gear needed to play baseball. Let’s be honest gloves, cleats, bats, balls and more costs money. This doesn’t even count if they kid desires to play catcher or grows out of stuff. Families need help and having gear to give out can be huge for keeping a child in the sport of baseball.
Community projects are great but can be hard with no players around. Having staff involved can be a great thing when players aren’t around. I do want to give a shout out to the the Lower Columbia College Softball team for recently volunteering around town for the United Way Day of Caring.
During The Season
The season can be crazy, but I believe that if impacting the community is a priority then time can be found to make an impact.
Visiting schools, summer programs, boys and girls clubs are all great ways to connect players to kids in the community. Even a short visit with some high fives and prizes like baseballs or stickers can make a positive impact on a child. Do you know the difference between a college baseball player and a major league baseball player in a child’s eyes? Nothing. They are equally amazing in a child’s eyes.
Making players available for photos and autographs is a simple but effective way to reach the community. The Cowlitz Black Bears, a team here in Longview, makes all of its players available to the fans after each home game. Fans can come out on the field to meet the players, get photos and a few autographs.
Making tickets affordable for families and even giving some away to kids. I don’t to say baseball teams need to give away tickets all the time. Tickets are how they make money and survive; they are a business after all. However, finding ways to keep ticket prices affordable in general admission areas and partnering with sponsors to give tickets away is important.
Honestly there are dozens, if not hundreds of things teams can do all year round to impact the community and grow the game of baseball. Every team, coach and player needs to understand just how important this is to keep the game of baseball going.