HARLEYSVILLE, Pa. - Baseball is "America's pastime," but after a disaster like Hurricane Sandy, kids were left without bats, balls, and gloves. In our monthly series "Proof Positive," we look at a Montgomery Co. group that's getting kids back in the game.
It's not be much to look at -- just a nondescript warehouse in Harleysville. But this place is literally a field of dreams.
"Pitch In For Baseball is a really simple concept," said founder David Rhode.
Here, you'll find thousands of bats, balls, gloves, pads, and helmets.
"It's over 20,000 pieces of equipment," said Tom Schoenfelder, who works with Pitch In For Baseball.
Rhode added: "If you need catchers' mitts for kids that throw left-handed, we want to know that, because we have those items."
These items aren't for sale, though. They're headed to kids who need them in places like Sandy-stricken Long Island, N.Y.
"The kids do light up," said Rhode. "They're searching for the bat that's going to be theirs, the glove that feels right."
"They were very excited, knowing that baseball was around the corner, and that they were going to have a season," added Schoenfelder.
The group doesn't just help here at home. Pitch In For Baseball has sent baseball gear to Haiti, Panama, the Philippines, and even Iraq.
"We're the largest organization of our type in the world," said Rhode. "We have helped collect equipment and distribute it to more than 75 countries around the world, and more than 300 communities here in the United States."
You can donate items online or bring items directly to the warehouse. In fact, some people drive hours to do so. But don't bring them just anything. It must be safe, Rhode said.
"A batting helmet -- we're making sure there are no cracks along the brim of the helmet, and then we'll check inside," he said. "All the padding must be in place and must be fresh."
For all the home runs this team scores, they have a short roster.
"Just one or two [of us]," said Schoenfelder. "We're a lean organization."
Rhode founded the group eight years ago, just after Hurricane Katrina.
"Pitch in for Baseball started with just a small box and a small space, and it has grown to what you are seeing here today," he said.
What they're seeing are the smiles on hundreds of players who are now back on the field.
Allentown, PA 18102