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'Hit the Mitt' home runs score cash for kids

Gold Crown Foundation will get $5K when Colorado players hit HR off new sign at Coors Field
MLB.com

Rockies fans will be fired up to see the slugging begin at Friday's home opener at Coors Field. This year, there's another reason to hope for home runs.

Every time a Rockies player slams a home run into a new 18-by-30 foot "Hit the Mitt" sign in left field, they'll notch up another run and score cash for a hometown charity.

Rockies fans will be fired up to see the slugging begin at Friday's home opener at Coors Field. This year, there's another reason to hope for home runs.

Every time a Rockies player slams a home run into a new 18-by-30 foot "Hit the Mitt" sign in left field, they'll notch up another run and score cash for a hometown charity.

Through a new partnership with UCHealth and the Colorado Rockies, each time a home run hits anywhere on the sign, a local youth sports and education nonprofit called the Gold Crown Foundation will get a $5,000 donation.

Gold Crown supports 20,000 boys and girls in Colorado annually through youth sports and education programs.

"The more home runs, the better," said Manny Rodriguez, the chief marketing and experience officer for UCHealth. "We all love seeing our Rockies players fire up their bats. Now, every time one of them hits this sign, they'll be scoring for the team and helping kids live healthy, extraordinary lives."

Rodriguez said Gold Crown does a great job of providing opportunities to kids who otherwise wouldn't have them. That's why UCHealth is so enthusiastic about supporting the organization.

Founded in 1986 by former Denver Nuggets player and coach Bill Hanzlik and his business partner Ray Baker, Gold Crown originally supported girls' basketball programs. Then, when Jeffco Public Schools stopped providing after-school sports for middle schoolers in the late 1980s, Gold Crown stepped up to fill the void. Now, Gold Crown serves boys and girls, ages 6-18, on more than 500 teams in multiple sports, giving away nearly $100,000 in scholarships annually.

Among the kids who benefit from Gold Crown's programs is Parker Teff, a 14-year-old who was born with cerebral palsy. Teff has played baseball, but basketball is his passion. Playing sports year-round for hours each day helps keep Teff's muscles loose and healthy.

He also loves the supportive atmosphere he finds through Gold Crown .

"It's like a second home for me, a place where I always know I'm welcome," Parker said. "It's a place I can be me. I don't have to worry about people judging me."

Teff gets to play on three year-round teams. He's been known to score 20 points in a game, and his peers have often picked him as their MVP. He's also a master of the 3-point shot, and he once hit 23 in a row during practice.

"Parker is a great example of the types of players we see in our programs," Hanzlik said. "We aim to provide as many opportunities as possible to youth in the Denver area, and the support from UCHealth and the Colorado Rockies through the 'Hit the Mitt' program will only increase our ability to provide opportunities for more student-athletes like Parker."

Colorado Rockies