Saturday, August 24, 2013

Baseball and Community Anti-Hunger Efforts

Isotopes recognize Roadrunner Food Bank, others in 2009
The baseball season is entering its final stretch. The minor leagues are completing their games around Labor Day, and the majors have about a month left before the regular season ends on Sept. 29. So this is a good opportunity to talk about the activities of baseball teams outside the diamond, particularly anti-hunger efforts.

Whether they are in a major, minor or independent league, baseball teams give back to their community by collecting and distributing food for the local food bank. Check out the food drive organized by the Midland Rock Hounds of the Double-A Texas League to collect food for the Jubilee Center Food Bank.

And the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League are partnering with the Harry Chapin Food Bank and others to hold Hunger Awareness Day on Sunday, Sept. 8.

Sometimes these food-collection efforts are more targeted. The New Orleans Zephyrs of the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, for example, partner with Food for Families, which provides nutritional food boxes to seniors. 

Many times, the players' wives take the lead in organizing food drives, such as the one sponsored by the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 11.  As a member of the board of Harvesters, the Kansas City food bank, in the 1980s I served in a committee chaired by Janie Quisenberry, the wife of the Kansas City Royals star relief pitcher Dan Quisenberry.  Janie Quisenberry and the Kansas City Royals wives were very serious about making a difference in the community and held several food drives. 

Major League Baseball offers baseball fans the opportunity to offer more than just food donations.  If you look at the volunteer opportunities available via MLB Community, Feeding America and City Harvest are at the top of the list.  The list also includes opportunities to help the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

Sometimes individual players take the initiative.  Roy Halladay, a pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, launched the Roy Halladay Foundation in 2011 to support hunger initiatives and other programs supported by his baseball team.

The Josh Lindblom Foundation
Because I am a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, I love highlighting the charitable work of some of the players.  I already wrote about star pitcher Clayton Kershaw and his work in Africa.  Now I want to take the opportunity to highlight the work of ex-Dodger relief pitcher Josh Lindblom (currently a member of  the Texas Rangers organization), who I saw pitch a couple of times for the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes.  Lindblom.  In 2011, Lindblom created the Josh Lindblom Foundation, which is intended both to raise awareness and provide assistance and support to organizations that help people in need.

Pitching for Albuquerque Isotopes in 2009
Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports tells a fascinating story about how Lindblom and his wife Aurielle became involved with the Dream Center in an area of Los Angeles known as Skid Row.  Here is an excerpt:

Josh Lindblom had listened to Pastor Matthew [Barmett] on his car radio. He'd never heard of the Dream Center, never heard of Matthew Barnett, never heard of any of this. "But he was screaming at me," Josh said.  When he got home, he researched the man and his mission, and discovered both were mere blocks from Dodger Stadium. He told Aurielle. Then they showed up and asked what they could do. Josh makes frequent trips to Skid Row. Aurielle helps with the families on-site, or travels into the community to provide bedding, food and services. Down on 6th and Crocker, while Josh walked the neighborhood, Aurielle served scrambled eggs to hundreds.

"He's living out his dream," Aurielle said, nodding to Josh, meaning the baseball. "We thought we should use it for good. You know, you can only live for yourself for so long. "It's making him – both of us – realize there's so much more to life than his baseball career. I can just tell, even if he doesn't do as well as he'd like, he knows it's OK, that it's just a game."  

I recommend that you read the full article, which was published in June 2012--when Lindblom was still in the Dodgers organization. And if you want more, here is a second article in Dodger magazine.  I watched Lindblom pitch for the Albuquerque Isotopes in 2009. He was eventually promoted to the Dodgers and subsequently traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, who then traded him to the Texas Rangers. Lindblom will return to Albuquerque as a member of the Rangers Triple-A affiliate, the Round Rock Express, for the Isotopes' final series of the season on Aug. 26-29..

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