How Baseball Can Save the World: Part One

One year ago, we started Experience Baseball with an idea to improve the quality of life in urban communities through love of baseball.

How far we’ve come in a year is a remarkable story. But it’s not nearly as remarkable as where we’re going.

Time to Develop

One year ago this week, our idea was to lead bus-tour retreats for baseball fan and corporate groups in MLB cities in order to tell unique baseball stories as continuing education and leadership development. We were going to call these bus retreats “tours;” tours were going to last between 6 and 9 hours.

This idea wasn’t perfect.

First, we couldn’t in the end justify the costs of chartered, executive-grade busses for a full day. Forget any other overhead, transportation alone would have cost more than half of the total costs for a single day’s activities.

Second, nine hours was much too long a time for groups to commit to. Leadership development is indeed something corporate groups look for in a private service. But asking groups to remain on a bus for an entire day was appealing to almost nobody.

Third, logistically, bus tours would have been a nightmare. Somehow registering whole swaths of baseball fans, coordinating drops and pickups, food preferences, conference room and restaurant costs, not to mention anything of the added insurance needs—These were all deeply time-consuming, money consuming, effort consuming projects that deterred us from our goals.

Fourth—and it takes some amount of pride-swallowing to admit this—our idea was too heavy-handed, not to mention disrespectful, voyeuristic, and intrusive. We had planned to demonstrate the critical development needs of communities in diverse, high-density cities by driving straight through them, pointing out their degradation, and discussing what should be done about them. And along the way we’d stop at sites of long-forgotten ballparks, YMCAs, and the childhood homes or gravestones of dead-ball era ball players.

Fifth, we wanted this to be a nonprofit. Because of this requirement, extravagant bus rides proved to be extremely difficult to “sell” by soliciting donations, as so much of the costs had to cover transportation and legal fees.

What we learned quickly enough in the first four months was that the idea by itself couldn’t truly and most effectively support the mission. The idea by itself was not going to make a successful public benefit business.

Making Baseball Philanthropy Simple

Back at the drawing board, our mission remained the same: To improve the quality of life in urban neighborhoods through baseball. We wanted to share and connect resources between baseball and urban communities. And we wanted to tell remarkable and inspiring baseball stories in order to empower women and men to enact greater change and support in baseball neighborhoods.

We began to explore more the practice of grassroots philanthropy. We believe strongly in communities’ rights to determine and name for themselves the issues most affecting their children. And we also see baseball and its fans as possessing significant resources and influence to support better those dedicated men and women on the ground.

Philanthropy combines the love of humanity with tangible assets and benefits to others. Philanthropy is an individual and organizational choice and a privilege.

So rather than continuing with messy, expensive, and burdensome educational tours, we began to devise a way to make it easy for baseball and its fans to give back to baseball communities, to support incredible grassroots development, and to empower young people through love of baseball.

We think we have it.

We determined to make a better public benefit organization by focusing on Simple Giving, Quality Baseball Programming, and Effective Community Relationships.

We’re on a mission, beginning again this year, to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods home to professional baseball. And we will do this by hosting more than 2,700 baseball fans at 100 unique and educational game-day events over the next three summers at big league parks; we will do this by raising more than $100,000 in support of incredible grassroots community youth organizations; and we will do this by providing professional training and experience to dedicated young professionals and students.

All the while, we will offer opportunities to become better fans and to make a difference in our communities. We’ve given ourselves three years to reach these goals.

We will begin in 2014 in the American League Central Division: Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, and Minneapolis. Over the next year we will share our stories about working in these incredible baseball spaces: What we do well, what we learn, what we hope to achieve. We will share everything from development, programming, organizational culture, fundraising, community transformation, marketing, and of course lots and lots of baseball.

We’re on a MISSION to make Baseball Philanthropy Simple to improve the quality of life in urban baseball neighborhoods.

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