The Reds Community Fund, St. Elizabeth Healthcare and Pennsylvania-based Pitch In For Baseball & Softball distributed $45,000 worth of baseball and softball equipment Wednesday to 15 Northern Kentucky high schools and three youth baseball organizations.
For five consecutive years, these three groups have partnered to help local baseball and softball teams in Northern Kentucky. Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic which forced the cancellation of the entire 2020 spring season for Northern Kentucky student-athletes, the need for equipment and resources is greater now as teams prepare for the ’21 season, and these organizations responded in a big way.
Thanks to the expertise of Pitch In For Baseball & Softball (PIFBS), the $45,000 went much further, providing a remarkable 2,320 pieces of equipment to 33 individual teams. The equipment consisted of 400 pairs of compression shorts, 159 pairs of socks, 114 dozen baseballs and softballs, 91 batting helmets, 58 equipment bags, 50 gloves and mitts, 47 belts, 40 pairs of pants, 34 bats and 20 sets of catcher’s gear.
“The greatest lesson we have learned throughout this pandemic is the impact of sport and play on kids and development,” PIFBS CEO Meredith Kim said. “To be a part of an effort that gets kids back on the field and have some sense of normalcy is truly invaluable. We exist to remove equipment as a barrier to play, and this is the perfect example of that. We look forward to it every year, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.”
Typically, this event takes place on the eve of the annual Reds Caravan. With that event canceled because of the pandemic, the equipment drive became a two-day event that involved an in-person and virtual component.
On Wednesday evening, staff members from the Reds Community Fund, In-Game Sports and St. Elizabeth Healthcare gathered at the St. Elizabeth Training and Education Center in Erlanger, Ky., to distribute the equipment in a safe and socially distanced drive-through setup. Athletic directors and head coaches from each school and organization pulled their vehicles up to the building while staff and volunteers loaded the equipment.
On Thursday, Reds Community Fund executive director Charley Frank hosted a Zoom call with members of the three groups, along with coaches, players and representatives of the 33 teams to discuss the impact of the equipment drive and excitement for the upcoming season. Florence Mayor Diane Whalen and Independence Mayor Chris Reinersman also participated.
“This year marks the 160th anniversary of St. Elizabeth’s founding in Covington,” said Bruno Giacomuzzi, St. Elizabeth Healthcare senior vice president and COO. “Like the Reds, we’ve been part of our community for a long time, and this is a program that means a lot to us. We are really involved in all of our communities, and it’s great to give back to all our young athletes in Northern Kentucky.”
Schools that benefitted from the equipment drive included Bellevue, Boone County, Campbell County, Dayton, Dixie Heights, Gallatin County, Grant County, Holy Cross, Covington Holmes, Lloyd Memorial, Ludlow, Newport, Newport Central Catholic, Scott and Simon Kenton. Also, Ludlow Athletic Club, Bellevue Vets and Grant County Little League received support.
Reds pitcher Tejay Antone joined the Thursday call to share his thoughts on the initiative.
“Equipment is very important,” Antone said. “It’s very cool that you all are providing equipment for these kids that they wouldn’t have otherwise. I trained a lot of kids in the offseason and just opened my own facility to be able to do this. It’s important to have a good training environment with high-level education and teaching the kids what it’s like at the next level, and it’s important for them to have a season this year and get out there and have fun.
“I’m really happy to be a part of that growth of the next generation and hope to lead them in the right direction.”