With help from Good Sports, Fox Sports donated $42,000 of new baseball and softball gear to Los Angeles and New York-based youth organizations.
By, Jordan Green
Jackie Robinson throughout the entirety of his baseball career wore No. 42. The number has made its way into baseball allure, as every year Major League Baseball celebrates Robinson’s contributions when all major leaguers bear “42” on the back of their jerseys on April 15 — the date he made his major league debut and shattered baseball’s color barrier.
The player consistently awed fans in the stands, as Robinson’s skills were subpar on the baseball field. However, the legacy behind the name is mainly embraced through his work as an activist, as he proved that the game was meant to be inclusive. This pursuit of equal opportunity is what drove Fox Sports’ most recent donation efforts earlier this week.
Fox Sports continues to support Good Sports, a nonprofit organization that seeks to give kids the lifelong benefits of sport and physical activity, and their Restore Play initiative. With the goal of providing $15 million in sporting equipment to underprivileged youth, Fox Sports contributed $42,000 dollars of new baseball and softball gear to the cause on April 15 in celebration of Jackie Robinson Day.
“We celebrate Jackie Robinson Day in different ways every year. And this year it only seemed appropriate to continue our work with Good Sports and their Restore Play initiative,” said Mark Toyama, the community partnerships manager at Fox Sports. “We’ve partnered with this initiative several times before, because we know how important it is to keep kids active and engaged in sports, especially during these times.”
As Robinson grew up in Pasadena, Calif. and played his entire MLB career in the city of Brooklyn, N.Y., Fox Sports is concentrating their donation efforts to youth-based organizations in Southern California and New York.
In Southern California, Fox Sports is coordinating with the Boys & Girls Club of the Foothills based in Monrovia. With donations ranging from bats, fielding gloves, helmets, catching gear, cleats and jerseys, the Boys & Girls Club of the Foothills will be using these offerings to launch its first-ever co-ed softball program. While the organization had previously implemented individually-played sports that allowed kids to have their own safe spaces, this new softball program will be the first group-run activity since the pandemic was declared a national emergency in March of 2020.
“Prior to this, we were playing disc golf. And while the kids had fun with it, it’s been so amazing to see them being able to go back outdoors and play and interact with other kids again,” said Jordan Esqueda who is the director of the Teen Center for the Boys & Girls Club of the Foothills. “We were intentional about wanting to give the kids a potential platform for their future. By teaching the fundamentals, we want the kids to build off of this opportunity and be persuaded to potentially try out for the softball or baseball team at their school and play competitively.”
Their plan for the program was to begin their in-house league season at the organization’s Teen Center by this upcoming summer. However, with overwhelming excitement from the kids since receiving the equipment being quite apparent, the potential to start earlier than expected may be undeniable.
“It’s been amazing to see how amped up these kids are about the donations,” said Esqueda. “Almost every day I’m getting asked to go outside with the kids and play catch or pitch to them so they can practice hitting. It wouldn’t shock me at all if we were asked to start running practices before summer, because the interest has just been incredible.”
The two New York-based organizations that Fox Sports is donating to are the Urban Youth Initiative in the Bronx and Central Brooklyn Youth Sports in Brooklyn. Both organizations have introduced either a baseball or softball program previously, and Fox Sports’ donations are helping to keep those programs running during the financially straining time that COVID-19 has influenced.
“We wanted to make sure that we not only were helping to maintain and build these programs so that kids could continue to play baseball and softball, but by doing that also focusing our impact on the places that were most meaningful throughout Jackie’s life,” Toyama mentioned.
While Fox Sports’ donation and Good Sports’ purpose is rooted in providing disadvantaged youth access to sport, with the impacts of this past year, the soul of these recent endeavors is embodied through attempting to revive the childhood spirit.
With millions of families being devastated financially due to the pandemic, a lot of the world’s youth is experiencing unwarranted realities that kids simply should not be forced to live through. According to UNICEF, approximately 150 million additional children are living in extreme poverty without access to essential services — which is a 9 percent increase from the pre-COVID statistics.
“A lot of times with our team we see kids who are forced to grow up way too fast and are being asked to do things that nearly all of their counterparts aren’t being asked to do,” stated Esqueda. “They’re needing to worry about where their next meal comes from. Or they are being asked to raise their younger siblings while their parents are working. So many adult responsibilities are being thrown at these kids, so giving them a platform to escape their hard realities is very important to us.”
With socially distanced athletic programs seeking to provide a sense of normalcy again for kids, the ultimate hope for all the parties involved is to also show them the importance of competing and being a member of a team. This sentiment is especially true for kids who have not gotten the chance to experience that opportunity before.
In this way, the work that the Boys & Girls Club, Good Sports and Fox Sports are doing in L.A. County is indeed fulfilling Robinson’s life work. To No. 42, he wanted to be remembered for his drive to help the oppressed thrive in a game where they were not previously accepted; it was the inheritance he hoped to leave behind.
By allowing kids, who previously didn’t have access, to participate in the sport that Robinson loved more than any other, people like Toyama and Esqueda are attempting to honor and build on that same exact legacy.
“Being able to build on Jackie’s legacy has made this whole thing even more meaningful,” Toyama said. “Our hope is that these kids will one day be able to think about his legacy when they continue to play the game. By doing that not only will it benefit the sport, but most importantly it would benefit the kids even more.”
To contribute to the Restore Play initiative, click here to donate.