There is nothing wrong with building a business that gives back to society through the promotion of the core of that business. In this case, a pro baseball team that gives youngsters the opportunity to play baseball. Access to activity is itself valuable. In the example below, it is that and more. As one of the ownership team’s execs proclaimed, “”Baseball and softball are really the carrots that we dangle out in front of them,” Mr. Williams says of his young charges. “We really want to develop young men and young women, so as they grow older, they’ll be contributing citizens to the community.”
The full article can be found at the website of the The Chronicle of Philanthropy, http://philanthropy.com/free/articles/v21/i20/20090820.htm, with an excerpt provided below.
Double Play: Minor-League Team’s Nonprofit Owner Instills Confidence in Urban Kids Through Baseball
A sun-scorched day slowly gives way to a warm evening, the air close and still.
In other words, a perfect night for baseball.
As crowds stream into downtown’s AutoZone Park this particular Friday, the hometown Redbirds, a Triple-A, minor-league affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, are scheduled to go nine innings with the visiting Omaha Royals.
The message on the electronic sign above the ballpark entrance gives the only hint that this team and this scene — one playing out simultaneously in stadiums across the country, as America’s pastime hits midseason stride — are a little different. The sign proclaims: “Foundation Awareness Night.”
The Redbirds are owned by the Memphis Redbirds Baseball Foundation, a charity that, after dealing with the expenses of paying for and running a new ballpark (widely considered one of the finest in the minors) and putting a pro team on the diamond, funnels its revenue into philanthropic causes. Before the recession settled in, the charity gave away more than $100,000 a year. This year, with more and more corporations spurning box-seat leases and fewer ticket buyers, the charity is tightening its belt.
Chief among the foundation’s philanthropic causes is the local incarnation of the national Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program, which helps urban kids learn about and play baseball or softball. (The Redbirds use the word “returning” in the title instead of “reviving,” but across the country the effort is called RBI for short.)
The pro-sports-meets-charity concept was created by Dean Jernigan, founder of the national Storage USA chain and a rabid baseball player who grew up playing in the city’s sandlots. He founded the Redbirds in 1998 as an expansion team in the Pacific Coast League.
This evening’s Foundation Awareness Night features a silent auction of baseball memorabilia (which brings in more than $2,000 for the foundation) and special announcements over the audio system reminding Memphians about RBI and the baseball of a different sort that happens beyond the groomed green expanse before them.
To see these other teams that wear the Redbirds logo, you have to brave the heat of the West Tennessee sun and visit the public ball fields sprinkled around the city.
Reggie Williams, a vice president of the foundation who directs the RBI program, agreed to show a reporter around. (And here’s a man who knows a thing or two about baseball: The Memphis native spent four years in the big leagues back in the 1980s, mostly as an outfielder with the Los Angeles Dodgers.)
“We’re in our 12th year of existence and have grown from an initial six sites to 14 sites now,” Mr. Williams says, while the sounds of balls pinging off aluminum bats and shrieking kids scrambling around dusty diamonds fill the air. “From roughly 220 children at the outset, we have over 1,100 children now.”
Equipment costs are one of the hurdles that has led to baseball’s waning popularity among city kids. And then there are the large, specialized fields that must be maintained. The RBI program, which is free to participants, takes care of all that, providing gloves, bats, uniforms, and other gear, as well as coaches, umpires, and even a free healthy lunch during the summer season. The program is open to boys and girls, ages 6 to 16, offering T-ball for the tykes, softballs for the girls, and hardball for the older boys.
(The article continues at http://philanthropy.com/free/articles/v21/i20/20090820.htm)