New bats and balls welcomed by cash-strapped public schools

Photos by Charles Hallman (l-r) Washburn AD Giovan Jenkins; Southwest softball player Anya London; MPS Asst AD Torrance Hill; PIFBS CEO Meredith Kim; and SPPS AD Monroe Thornton, Jr.

Twins and national partner sponsor equipment giveaway

Nearly 50 softball and baseball teams from 14 Twin Cities schools will begin their 2022 seasons with new equipment, thanks to the Minnesota Twins.

The Twins, along with Pitch In For Baseball & Softball, a national organization, last week provided new baseball and softball equipment at the visitors’ clubhouse at the Twins ballpark.  With the team’s Community Fund and Pitch In’s financial support, over 700 kids from 47 Minneapolis and St. Paul high school and middle school baseball and softball teams got new equipment and uniform resources this year.

Pitch In For Baseball & Softball (PIFBS) has two headquarters in Pennsylvania and Los Angeles. It was founded in 2005 just after Hurricane Katrina as a nonprofit organization that promotes baseball and softball around the world, especially in underserved communities that have existing teams or are wishing to start new ones. 

They claim that nearly one million kids in over 110 countries have benefited from PIFBS’ commitment to reduce barriers to play and promotes youth development by providing equipment directly to leagues, schools and organizations around the world.

“It would be very difficult [for some to play] because many girls in our program don’t have access and other equipment is expensive,” Minneapolis Southwest senior softball player Anya London told the MSR after the new equipment was handed out. 

Southwest and the six other MPS high schools, four St. Paul high schools and three middle schools were represented March 10 as the new bats, balls and other related equipment were packed up and carried away to their respective schools.

“We have helped more than 6,000 student-athletes in Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts and nearly 200 teams,” said Meredith Kim, PIFBS CEO.

“We are absolutely thrilled and so proud to be a partnership with [PIFBS] again this year to try to help provide equipment to all the schools across Minneapolis and St. Paul,” added Twins President Dave St. Peter.

St. Paul Public Schools Athletic Administrator Monroe Denarvise Thornton, Jr., who recently became the district AD after over 25 years’ experience in similar roles in several school districts in Florida, stressed, “Athletic directors and the students really get excited about the opportunity to come here and get the equipment.” 

He said that St. Paul’s relationship with the Twins is greatly appreciated: “More than anything, it means that this relationship is something that benefits the students by providing them some equipment where they may not have had the opportunity to get the top-of-the-line. And also helps the schools with respect of defraying the cost that the schools incur in the district for purchasing equipment for them. We’re grateful for that.”

“We are in a time [when] we don’t have the money and the resources,” said Minneapolis Washburn AD Giovan Jenkins. “I think it’s one of those things where the kids don’t understand it right now, but it allows them to have an equal playing field in terms of equipment use…to get them off on the right foot.” 

Minneapolis Public Schools Middle School AD Torrance Hill pointed out, “Assisting us in providing opportunity to be this competitive is crucial.”

Yet, at least in the Cities, baseball and softball participation among Blacks and other people of color remains low. “I want increased participation,” said Jenkins, pointing out that there are four students of color among three school teams.

“I would say [the] majority is White, but there are a couple of POCs in our program,” added London, who plays shortstop. “It’s really good to see other young POCs come into the program to play.

“I’m very, very proud to be a part of this team,” said London, “and happy that we got all this new equipment.”