As part of the team’s continuing efforts to increase youth participation in baseball and softball, the Washington Nationals, in partnership with the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, hosted their annual baseball equipment drive last month at Nationals Park.
The Nationals encouraged fans to donate new and used equipment of all kinds, from baseballs, softballs, bats, batting gloves and catcher’s equipment to youth batting helmets, bases, baseball pants and cleats. In addition to the team’s gameday collection numbers, various organizations delivered carloads of donations throughout the week that followed the drive. In total, the club collected more than 1,600 pieces of equipment to benefit the Capitol Hill Little League (CHLL), including more than 100 bats and 100 baseballs.
While the collection numbers alone are undoubtedly impressive, Nationals Senior Director of Community Relations Shawn Bertani understands what the true benefits of these numbers are.
“This drive is about the impact the equipment can have on groups that are in need and really gives us the opportunity to engage with our fans and give them the opportunity to participate and play a role in the development of youth baseball,” she said.
Earlier this season, CHLL incorporated King Greenleaf Recreation Center, a neighborhood program only four blocks from Nationals Park, into their expanding league. This move will help Greenleaf enhance their current program, which continues to grow in an area where basketball and football have previously dominated.
“Given the fact that Major League Baseball was absent from the DC market for more than a generation, we feel that it is our responsibility to help increase participation in youth baseball across the city,” Bertani added. “As a result of these efforts, more participants will be able to play the national pastime right here in the Nation’s Capital.”
In addition to the equipment drive, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond and Cathy Bradley, Director of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, presented a $5,000 grant to CHLL during a pregame ceremony the day of the drive. This is the seventh year the Baseball Tomorrow Fund has partnered with the Nationals to offer local youth programs a chance to provide tomorrow’s baseball stars the resources they need to succeed on the field today.
By Ryan McGlynn