A charitable organization is pitching in to help Magic City Youth Baseball and the Burlington Recreation Commission get back to normal a year after the Souris River flood heavily impacted both youth baseball programs in 2011.
Both organizations turned to Pitch In For Baseball, a nonprofit charity based in the Philadelphia area and dedicated to helping youth baseball programs all over the world, for help in securing new equipment for the upcoming season. David Rhode, executive director of Pitch In For Baseball who works out of the organization's Minneapolis office, said his organization has been in existence since 2005 and collects and redistributes uniforms and equipment to children and communities in need.
Half the donations Pitch In For Baseball makes are based in the United States, with the other half going out internationally. Rhode said they've shipped equipment to more than 70 countries around the world, and to more than 250 communities in the United States.
Some of the equipment used in this Minot baseball game played earlier in the year came from Pitch In For Baseball. Dalton Herbert is the batter, Zach Spaulding is the catcher and the umpire is Jacob Holmen.
"We're the largest organization of our type in terms of what we do," Rhode said.
Rhode said most of their recipients contact them for assistance, which is what the Minot and Burlington programs did after the flood last summer.
"Based on our history of assisting not just communities generally that need assistance, but communities that have had a natural disaster occur, this seemed like something we would be able to do," Rhode said.
In addition to helping Minot and Burlington after the Souris River flood, Rhode said they also helped Joplin, Mo., after a tornado devastated that community last year, as well as Japan after its massive tsunami.
"It's incredibly important for not just the kids, but the entire community to get back to doing something that gives them a sense of normalcy after an event like this," Rhode said. "So for us it's extremely rewarding to be able to play a part in that process."
In addition to all the equipment collected in the Philadelphia area, Rhode said a number of items were also collected in the Minneapolis area with the assistance of the Minnesota Twins.
"They were concerned and interested in Minot, which is a big part of Twins country," Rhode said. "So they did some equipment collection initiatives with us and that equipment was forwarded to Burlington and Minot."
Rhode said if anyone wants to get involved with Pitch In For Baseball in any way, either as a donor or a potential recipient, they can visit the website (www.pitchinforbaseball.org) for more information.
Jay Klabunde, president of Magic City Youth Baseball, said the flood last year had a significant impact on Minot's baseball program. The league had already started by the time the flood hit, and then they were in limbo for a couple of weeks.
Klabunde said they were fortunate that Surrey allowed them to use the field there for the younger children in the Cal Ripken age, which is 9 through 12. Children can play in the program up through age 19.
"So we were able to continue our league out there in kind of a scaled-back manner," Klabunde said. "And then as far as our Babe Ruth and older level, we had to kind of do what we had to - play in Surrey, Velva, wherever we could. We changed a lot of the home games to away games."
Coming into this year, Klabunde said they wanted to create as much normalcy for the children as possible. One thing he was happy to see was fewer losses in participation than expected. Last year there were 230 children in the program, and this year the number only dropped to 218.
"We're pretty happy that we did get that good of turnout," Klabunde said.
Magic City Youth Baseball received about $5,000 worth of equipment to use in its program, including bats, helmets, and sets of catcher's gear.
"What that did was allow us to not have to purchase those types of things for this year, to help us with our budget," Klabunde said. "With having to replace equipment yearly, this saved us a lot."
Thankfully, Klabunde said they were able to save most of their old equipment by storing it in different garages around town, so that helped keep down expenses this year, as well.
"Just about every board member had some somewhere in their garages or shops, or some relatives or things like that," Klabunde said with a laugh.
He also noted the Minnesota Twins even paid for the shipping costs of the equipment, saving Magic City Youth Baseball $600.
Local donations also poured in, including $5,000 from United Community Bank, $2,000 from CTI, $5,000 from the Minot Community Fund through Bremer Bank, $2,000 from Midcontinent Communications, $2,000 from the Minot Eagles Club, and another $5,000 grant from an anonymous donor.
"We've had great community support for America's pastime," Klabunde said.
He hopes the children will be back on their home fields in Minot sometime in June, or July 1 at the latest. Klabunde is thankful to Scott Collins and Tom Landsiedel at the Minot Recreation Commission for letting Magic City Youth Baseball use its fields in the meantime.
Klabunde said the equipment donated from Pitch In For Baseball was a huge help, and gave the board of Magic City Youth Baseball one less thing to worry about.
"It's a big load of stress off of the entire board. Whenever you're trying to run an organization for kids that are 9 through 19, we as parents and coaches have to remember that we're doing it for the kids, not for ourselves," he said. "And anytime you can receive donations like that to improve the program for the kids, that's what it's all about."
Paula Bachmeier, chairman of the Burlington Recreation Commission, said much of their season last year was wiped out by the flood.
"Our Legion and Babe Ruth teams went on the road and played all their games on the road. Our Pee Wees and Midgets play in the Minot system, so that's all right," Bachmeier said. "But our T-ball and softball and elementary softball were all canceled."
While they lost a little bit of equipment, Bachmeier said one of the board members rounded up some Legion players and saved the bulk of it.
The equipment they received from Pitch In For Baseball included 25 helmets, bats, balls, catcher's equipment for the Pee Wee, Midget and Babe Ruth teams, four sets of practice jerseys, and equipment bags.
Bachmeier said Jeanine Kabanuk of the Burlington Recreation Commission was their contact person with Pitch In For Baseball, and had a great experience working with the nonprofit organization.
"They were wonderful for her. She basically did it all herself," Bachmeier said of Kabanuk. "She sent (the application) in and got hooked up and they were just really wonderful."
Bachmeier said the children in their program were incredibly excited to get the new equipment, as were the parents. And Pitch In For Baseball wasn't the only organization to help Burlington's program, either.
"It was wonderful, it was just kind of a godsend. We've really been blessed," Bachmeier said. "The state Lions organization has taken on our park as a fundraising thing and they're helping us with a buy-a-brick fundraiser statewide. And the Twins came through with two $10,000 grants for us."
While Burlington will have a season this year, its baseball fields unfortunately won't be ready in time. Bachmeier said all the diamonds still look pretty sad, and won't be ready for play until next year. Fortunately, Ward County has allowed them to use Old Settlers Park for the summer, which she greatly appreciates.
"There's just no words to express the gratitude we have," Bachmeier said. "Pitch In For Baseball, all of the organizations that have come forward to help us."