Welcome to Grassroots Baseball!
It was spring 1971, my first season playing organized baseball. Our late-afternoon practice had ended and the coach instructed the team to jog over to his car and line up in order of height.
He opened the trunk of his car, which was full of uniforms, socks and caps. When it was my turn, he handed me a grey button-down jersey and pants made of wool, green stirrups and a hat. I immediately put on my first baseball cap. I was officially a member of the Newton Central Little League Oakland A’s. I was beaming with pride. I was in love with baseball.
I’ve been fortunate to have spent virtually my entire professional career involved with something I adore and to which I can relate. After eight years in public relations with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, I’ve been with the Baseball Hall of Fame for the last quarter century.
While I have much to accomplish with the Hall of Fame before I retire at the end of summer, it is also a time for new beginnings, and I could not be more excited.
The Grassroots Baseball concept started with my talented partner, acclaimed baseball photographer Jean Fruth. In addition to covering the major league game, Jean has been documenting amateur baseball for many years and it has always been her passion. The fruits of her labor are manifested in her incredible new book, Grassroots Baseball: Where Legends Begin .
With Jean’s longtime commitment to the grassroots game and my love of baseball, we decided to form a partnership and grow the concept. When she was the traveling photographer for the Hall of Fame (and contributing to the Museum’s photo archive), we collaborated on some great projects. We’re now at a point in our lives when we want to give back, and that’s what Grassroots Baseball is all about.
The mission of Grassroots Baseball is to celebrate the amateur game, and to give back by providing inspiration, instruction and equipment, helping ensure more children have the opportunity to learn, play and enjoy baseball.
Beginning next week, and running through October, the inaugural Grassroots Baseball tour will travel along Historic Route 66, one of the original highways in the U.S. highway system that runs from Chicago, Illinois to Santa Monica, California. Established in 1926, Route 66 connects the main streets of rural America and urban areas, much like the grassroots game connects people from different communities.
Hall of Famers and other retired major league stars who grew up along Route 66 will be tied into our program. We will provide gloves and baseballs to children in 12 communities along the route, as we help grow and celebrate the grassroots game. We’ll be posting often on Instagram, Twitter and on Facebook, so be sure to follow us.
Throughout my career, my focus has been on the major league game. Now, it’s also about celebrating kids around the globe who play and enjoy the game, whether they’re in a park, on a sandlot, in the streets, or in a minor league ballpark. Having been one of those kids many moons ago, I can’t wait to start being one all over again.