After a successful 7+ year tenure at Friends of Baseball, during which she delivered a 10x increase of revenue and oversaw exponential growth in community impact, we are announcing that Nova Newcomer will be making a transition out of her role as Executive Director. Nova came to this leadership role as the first staff person at Friends of Baseball and has helped secure the legacy of the organization as an enduring community institution. We want to thank her for her dedicated service, which involved many significant accomplishments:
Nova will be transitioning from her day-to-day role in late November, however she will be consulting with our team to support a successful hire and transition to a new Executive Director. The Executive Director position will be posted next week and we encourage you to share within your networks. If you have any questions or concerns during this process, please do not hesitate to reach out directly at EDsearch@friendsofbaseball.org.
President, Board of Directors of Friends of Baseball
Dear Friends of Baseball family,
You have been the best fans an Executive Director could ask for. You have cheered us on through significant growth and wins for our organization, and put your rally caps on for us when the challenges of our times called for it. It has been an honor and a privilege and the most rewarding ride to be the skipper at Friends of Baseball the past 7+ years.
I’ll start where I began.
I was a 9 year old girl who just wanted a chance to play. And my community wrapped its arms around me and made that possible. My coach, when I was 11 years old, saw leadership in me and asked me to be a catcher — a role I played with pride from 5th grade until my senior year of high school.
So long after my playing days were over and the opportunity presented itself for me to get behind the plate for Friends of Baseball in 2014, it wasn’t just that I was interested, I couldn’t think of anything else. The idea that we could rally the community around a promise of what baseball and softball could make possible for youth burned so bright that it propelled us through early and discouraging rejections.
Together, we persevered, we innovated, we put youth and their families at the center of what we do. We continued on, knowing if we did that, we could put baseball and softball youth development back on the map.
Last spring, we were asked to be one of the organizations to help end the isolation for youth disproportionately impacted by a global pandemic and we are answering that call.
Because I personally know what it’s like to have insecurity about where you will lay your head for the night, whether you will have enough food, or the threat of utilities being shut off, and because I understand firsthand the ravages of mental health issues on a family and young children — our team’s response to the pandemic is something I am most proud of.
Our charge to right the wrongs of racism that has seeped into every aspect of our society remains. When less than 8% of Major League players identify as Black Americans, the work remains. When the ballfields of neighborhoods across our region aren’t filled with the joy and laughter of all of our community’s children, the work remains. And until girls of all backgrounds can see sports as a viable pathway for the future where their voices will be heard and respected, the work remains.
In the search for a new Executive Director at Friends of Baseball, we will be looking for a leader with a commitment to that ongoing system change who has deep roots and connection to the community. The new leader will need to have a passion for baseball and softball and possess a competitive spirit to take Friends of Baseball’s impact to new heights.
I want to thank our dedicated team at Friends of Baseball who have been the key to all that we have been able to accomplish before and through the pandemic. To our Board, thank you for seeing our organization through great heights and hardships with a steady hand and giving us the flexibility to move toward the community in a just and compassionate way. And to all of our friends and supporters who have believed in us and walked alongside us, I want to extend my deepest gratitude.
In the near term, I will be focused on supporting a successful transition to a new Executive Director for our organization. I will carry my heart and passion for this work into my next role.
The future of Friends of Baseball is bright, we have an exceptional and committed staff, and our foundation is strong. I am excited to see what the next era of Friends of Baseball will make possible for the children of our community.
Friends of Baseball
On October 9th, 2021 Friends of Baseball partnered with USA Baseball to offer a free youth baseball clinic for boys and girls at Portland’s Walker Stadium.
This Homegrown USA Baseball Clinic, featured Portland-area native, Adley Rutschman, 2019’s #1 MLB Draft pick and future Major Leaguer currently with the Baltimore Orioles organization.
The clinic featured:
Ballplayers created a tunnel for youth with Orioles' #1 prospect, Adley Rutschman.
Check out our upcoming Fall Programs below:
Full Count RBI afterschool SUN Enrichment Classes are starting this month at schools in PPS, Reynolds, and Parkrose School Districts. Serving elementary-aged students, the Full Count RBI curriculum provides a fun "first exposure" to baseball/softball skills. Trained coaches provide physical activity and supportive mentoring for students, while helping to develop "Major League Citizens." Each student receives a "Ball Player Kit," including glove, cap, and t-shirt.
"Play Catch with a Coach" is re-starting this month, hosted at Wilshire Riverside Little League's James Combs Field. These sessions, pair young ballplayers with a Full Count RBI Coach to practice baseball/softball skills and help introduce beginners to the game. All participants receive a new baseball or softball glove.
Baseball Clinics are now being offered at Charles Jordan Community Center for elementary and middle school students who are new to the game. Piloted in partnership with Portland Parks and Rec's Teen Force Program, and led by FOB Lead Coach, Gerald Bolden, these community center clinics provide increased access to baseball/softball for youth and new students in North Portland.
Our Halloween Distributions and Community Events coming up this fall will help foster family youth and youth in communities in and outside the Portland Metro area. Youth receive baseball-themed Halloween goodie bags to brighten the fall holiday season.
Happy Holidays Everyone! The season of giving is now more important than ever to our youth this year. We’ve created a Holiday Give Back Gift Guide to furthermore push our efforts to support the youth in the Portland community. Making a donation from $20-250 will come with a gift! From post cards that commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Negro Leagues to cutting boards in the shape of home plate for the chef in your life!
Our mission to enhance children’s lives through baseball’s power to teach, has never felt as necessary, or as needed to help combat the impact Covid-19 has left on our youth. This winter, we will be continuing programs implemented in the fall and we are in the works of planning a few events as the promise of spring awaits:
Although Covid-19 has been putting a stop to gatherings, Friends of Baseball saw this as an opportunity to get creative. Rather than cancelling a night full of recognition and celebrating resilient communities within Portland, we converted people’s homes to be at the center of our appreciation through our very first Virtual Gala!
Through the support of our community, we were able to push out a handful of programs to help brighten the lives of young ball players around the Portland area. These programs were created with the idea of bringing joy and healing to families in our community. Although these programs were designed for ball players to come out to get some batting or fielding practice, we also saw parents light up at the sight of their children enjoying an outdoor activity for the first time in 6 months.
Thanks to the support of the community we were able to provide the following programs this fall:
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.
Friends of Baseball
We believe every child should have the opportunities to swing for the fences on the field and in life.