We stand with Black Americans protesting police brutality, and the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the horrifically long list of Black men, women, and children who have been killed by police officers and racist vigilantes.
We stand with Black ballplayers in MLB, Minor League Baseball, college baseball and softball, and recreational baseball and softball who are told in myriad ways to “play the game the right way” — a pervasive spoken and unspoken code to exclude them from the fruits of their hard work, dedication, and joy on the field. A message that is so loudly heard on fields across our nation where one can visibly see the children, who are missing from our baseball and softball diamonds.
At Friends of Baseball, our mission is to enhance children’s lives through baseball’s power to teach. And there is no greater lesson needed in America right now than the one that Black Americans have been trying to tell us in the face of denial, contempt, and brutality at the hands of community members and government institutions.
We are committed to continuing and deepening our ongoing commitment to using a racial equity lens in our planning, decision-making, and how we operate. Unfortunately, we can’t in one statement, say all of the action we need to take that we have too many times hit the snooze button on — a powerful metaphor we recently saw on the sign of a young black activist.
So, in the spirit of not hitting the snooze button, here is what we are doing right now:
To say that we believe baseball is for everyone is not a platitude, it is Friends of Baseball’s mandate. Yet we say that with the knowledge that we have not always demonstrated clearly or spoken out effectively on our commitment to this mandate, as it specifically applies to the Black families we have served from the beginning.
The nonprofit industry exists entirely due to the existence of inequity. Friends of Baseball exists because of racial and economic inequity that we have allowed to subsist. As an organization funded by community support, we believe we must repay the debt our community owes to families whose communities have been historically underinvested in for decades in Portland and in Oregon. This means that when we open new after school and summer programs that we make sure these programs are running at school communities serving youth whose families have disproportionately experienced the devastating impacts of gentrification, multigenerational poverty, housing instability, poor air quality, lack of access to healthcare, and over policing. Just like with education and other enrichment activities, there is a direct line that connects the experiences of racism (e.g. exclusion, barriers to access, prejudice, bias) in baseball and softball to the lifelong and disparate impacts, we see for Black Americans across all determinants of health, wellbeing, and financial opportunity.
8%. Just 8% of all Major League Baseball players are Black. After steadily increasing after Jackie Robinson faced down racism and segregation in baseball to break the color barrier in 1947, the percentage of Black players in Major League Baseball reached a plateau in the 1970s of around 18%.
If you are someone who supports Friends of Baseball’s work in the community, we are so grateful. When you give us that praise, know that you are lifting up a deep bench of Black community leaders, moms, dads, high school leaders, youth, and businesses who have trusted us not only with their time and resources, but also with the gift of helping us understand where we have fallen short, what work we have to do, and when we need to get out of the way.
We won’t be satisfied until we stop hearing the phrase, “Baseball is a white sport” explicitly, implicitly, or because of how it feels for a Black youth or youth of color to participate in it. Hold us to that.
Following our newly awarded affiliation with Major League Baseball’s RBI Youth Initiative, Friends of Baseball will open six new after school programs in the area.
Six new school communities in N/NE Portland and East Multnomah County will have the opportunity to swing for the fences after school with Portland Diamond Project’s investment in Friends of Baseball (FOB). A nonprofit in the Portland Metro area, FOB received their official affiliation in February through Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Youth Initiative for their award-winning baseball-inspired after school and summer enrichment programs. FOB was awarded the affiliation with Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI), MLB’s youth initiative to provide young people from underserved and diverse communities the opportunity to play baseball and softball.
Full Count is Friends of Baseball’s after school and summer youth program that, since its founding as a one-week summer program in 2015, has grown to serving 12 communities in four school districts in the Portland metro area, providing after school enrichment for more than 600 students. More than 80% of the youth who participate in Full Count are youth of color and 75% participate in the free or reduced-price lunch programs.
Portland Diamond Project, the group working to bring Major League Baseball to Portland, is underwriting a position with Friends of Baseball through Up2Us Sports, a sports-based youth development organization that trains and places coaches in nonprofits across the country to support and mentor youth.
“Central to PDP’s mission is a commitment to making baseball more inclusive and accessible for everyone in Portland,” PDP founder and President Craig Cheek said. “Friends of Baseball has been a fabulous partner, sharing the love of the game and bringing high-quality enrichment programs to youth throughout the metro area. They are a shining example of how Portland is better with baseball and we are proud to support their effort.”
The hiring of this new Program Mentor position will allow Friends of Baseball to open programs in six new school communities serving a high percentage of youth of color and low-income youth in 2019. This position is an AmeriCorps service term of one year for 900 hours and total compensation starts at $15/hr.
Details on how to apply for the Up2Us Sports AmeriCorps position funded by Portland Diamond Project can be found at the Friends of Baseball website: https://www.friendsofbaseball.org/we-are-hiring.html
“We are working hard to keep up with the demand for our Full Count program. This support from Portland Diamond Project makes it possible for us to be more responsive to this need from our partners and accelerate our progress toward our goal of being in 20 schools by 2020,” said Executive Director Nova Newcomer. Newcomer will be a featured moderator at the RBI Institute being held in Birmingham, Alabama over the weekend (March 14-17).
Wow! Our kids asked, “Can I Play?” And you responded with a resounding “Yes!”
Just 4 months into our $100,000 campaign to open up 10 new Full Count programs, our scorecard shows you have helped us raise through donations and grants a total of $59,300 toward our goal of opening up 10 new Full Count summer and after school programs.
Check out our Facebook gallery below of some of the fun we had at our “Can I Play?” Gala helping to bring the life lessons inherent in the game of baseball to underserved youth!
Stay tuned for the launch of our new website and fun, easy ways to say “Yes!” to our kids.
In the meantime, you can help us toward our goal of funding 5 more programs by donating to our Can I Play? campaign.
A BENEFIT FOR FRIENDS OF BASEBALL’S FULL COUNT AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM
Last year, when we celebrated our 10th Anniversary with nearly 300 community members, we asked the group to dream with us, “If Only…”
If Only our kids played on safe fields. If Only coaches were provided with the training and resources they needed. If Only families didn’t have to worry about affording that glove. If Only every child had the chance to play.
On Friday, September 23, 2016 at Oregon Golf Club, we will convene again to show you what is possible when we answer, “Yes” to this question for the most underserved youth in our community.
Like last year, we will have an engaging program and live auction with “can’t get anywhere else” items and bring together hundreds of business and community leaders to support the engagement of our youth through baseball– inspired educational programming. But this year, our vision is bolder. We want to launch Full Count in 10 new schools this Fall and Winter.
Our youth are asking, “Can I Play?”
Please answer “Yes” with us and join us at this inspirational event.
Well as you might have noticed, it’s been too long since we have provided some updates on the website! While it is no excuse, we have been very busy in the field, literally, on the ball field! It has been a fun season for us at Friends of Baseball, including three Portland Metro area summer Full Count enrichment camps, with the second and third camps just wrapping up. We have two more ahead to round out the summer! What a blast it has been!
Opening Day was fun for us too! Not only did we get to celebrate it with our Partner Green Zebra grocery in North Portland kicking off the 2016 season, we also had the chance to give back to our friends at the Mariners. Specifically to a special kind of person by the name of Miles. Miles is an usher at Safeco field and has been for years, and he has made it his mission to keep the love of collecting baseball cards alive by handing out (from his own collection mind you) baseball cards to each young fan walking through his gate to Safeco field. We had the chance to replenish his stash of cards thanks to a generous gift from a local, true Friend of Baseball, Bruce Kracke. It was an honor to meet Miles and the smile on his face when we surprised him with over 10,000 cards — was priceless!
Off the field, we have also expanded our board with 2 new members (Cindy Nichol and Drew Hagedorn) who we will introduce further after they have had a chance to get their feet wet. We just conducted our yearly strategy meeting in June. Both Cindy and Drew are jumping right in to get involved from the get go! Nova and the rest of the FOB board can’t wait to utilize their skills and passion for youth baseball and softball in the NW as we continue with our Can I Play initiative!
And finally the biggest reason we are in transition, we are working hard to update our website, which we are very excited about! Not only will it be more informative, but easier for you, our visitors, to help contribute to the amazing game of youth baseball in the NWthrough FOB. Please stay tuned for the big reveal…coming soon!
As we continue to finalize the website, please be patient. Keep in touch with us through FaceBook and most importantly, come and see us for our Gala on September 23rd at the Oregon Golf Club (for information, email firstname.lastname@example.org). In the meantime, I hope this update provides a glimpse into what we are up to and a chance to say THANK YOU to everyone who has supported our efforts over the years. As we always say…#baseballbuildscommunity.
Friends of Baseball Co-Founder/President
HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM FRIENDS OF BASEBALL
When MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred issued his letter around this time last year, we were so inspired and motivated to learn that his priorities for Major League Baseball aligned so well with our priorities to Keep Kids on the Field of Play.
He said, “Baseball is a game firmly rooted in childhood experiences, and its vitality and growth rely heavily on giving young people from all backgrounds the opportunity to play and watch baseball.”
That’s why we were honored to have Commissioner Manfred participate in our 10th Anniversary Gala from afar with his special video message and congratulations not just to our Founders, but to ALL OF YOU who have been there along the way to help us help more kids.
2015 HIGHLIGHTS and MORE TO COME…
Today, it’s the first day of 2016. You know what that means. A new season ahead…
Nova and Ben
10 YEARS KEEPING KIDS ON THE FIELD OF PLAY
The Seattle Mariners sent us a special holiday thank you video message to our partners and supporters who have done so much for youth baseball and softball over Friends of Baseball’s decade of service.
At our Gala in November, we raised a little over $35,000 to help fund our new Full Count program to bring more youth to the game. We are proud to partner with the Seattle Mariners to build community through baseball and have their support at our 10th Anniversary celebration.
Enjoy this special message from the Mariner Moose and his colleagues and our front office friends, Gina Hasson and Bob Hellinger.
And remember baseball is always just around the corner.
To a fun and memorable 2016 year and season!
Your fans at Friends of Baseball
Baseball doesn’t have to end with the post-season…
Get your Gala tickets today and hear from the “Keeper of the Flame” Roberto Clemente Jr.Bid on Dream Baseball Experiences in our Live Auction including:
Golden Tickets also available for purchase to “steal home” for an auction item