Diveristy in Friendship
by Antone R.E. Pierucci
Later on, there’d be time to learn a proper fastball grip and the technique of the drag bunt. But first, the 100 or so young boys and girls, all clad in Dodgers blue and white, were going to learn the basics. As in, the basics of exercise: Jumping jacks. Kneetouchers. Burpees.
On this day, the kids participating in the Dodgers’ flagship youth baseball and softball program, called Dodgers Dreamteam, hardly touched a bat or ball. Instead, the event was one of several clinics the program sponsors in which the young players run through a series of drills meant to promote overall physical fitness. “It’s about being active, having fun,” says Sean Mulligan, manager of youth programs for the Dodgers Foundation. What it wasn’t really about was evident: playing baseball.
For the Dodgers Foundation, that’s by design. Since first launching its youth baseball and softball leagues (originally called Dodgers RBI), Dodgers Dreamteam has grown to incorporate a wide range of non-baseball-related programming with a focus on issues from health care to education to college and career accelerators. The result is a series of events at which kids have access to information, resources, and services they may not otherwise receive. (Most of the leagues are in communities where the majority of children receive free or reduced-price school lunches.) “We use the term ‘bigger than baseball,’” says Tiffany Rubin, director of programs for the Dodgers Foundation. “Yes, the kids are signing up to play the sport, but our program is about more than just the sport itself.”
Masonic Charity in Action
For the California Masonic Foundation, which through Masons4Mitts is one of the title sponsors of the program, that assessment fits like, well, a glove. Says Doug Ismail, president of the Foundation, “Masons4Mitts is essentially about leveling life’s playing field and providing opportunities for kids in under-resourced communities. We do this by providing young people with a high-quality summer learning experience. And of course it has to be fun, which is why we ensure that every kid has a mitt. That’s what makes it so special.”
As more leagues return to the diamond (after what has been, for many, a two-year absence), that’s increasingly a prism through which Ismail views Masons4Mitts. Since launching in 2009, the effort has raised more than $1.5 million to support the charitable foundations of the Dodgers, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Angels, and San Diego Padres. In each case, the Foundation is the largest donor, or among the largest.
Similar to the Dodgers Dreamteam’s “bigger than baseball” mantra, the San Francisco Giants Community Fund’s Junior Giants program, its flagship youth baseball and softball league, also emphasizes initiatives focused on health, education, and violence prevention. Coaches lead discussions with players on character-development topics like bullying. “It’s really an education program,” says Creston Whiting-Casey, a Mason with Washington № 20 and a Junior Giants volunteer coach. “That’s where Masons can really plug in. It’s not just a mitt.”
Courtesy of the Dodgers Foundation
More from this issue:
Thanks to lodge volunteers, Masonic Outreach Services can be everywhere to provide support to those in need.