Dodgers' equipment drive a success
Team donates $5,000 and supplies to Belmont High School
LOS ANGELES -- First-year Belmont High School varsity baseball coach Manuel Pool won't complain about how the Dodgers welcomed him to his new job.
In conjunction with an equipment donation drive held at Dodger Stadium on Saturday, the Baseball Tomorrow fund gave Belmont's baseball and softball programs a donation of $5,000. The Dodgers also donated equipment, including a full set of catching gear.
Belmont High is within five miles of Dodger Stadium in the shadow of downtown Los Angeles. It is the only high school in its league without an on-campus baseball field, and has a boys program that practices in jerseys of which some date back to the 1970s.
"It's big to get blessed with something of this caliber," Pool said. "Stuff like this hardly happens to our community."
Belmont plays its home games at one of seven Dodger Dream Fields. The team shares the Bishop's Canyon site, located in the hills surrounding Dodger Stadium, with another school.
Pool's varsity team practices on a field without a mound and a patchwork outfield. On a given day it takes 45 minutes to travel 15 miles to the site, and on occasion, the club has had to end its workout early in favor of local little league games. The junior varsity team practices on another field altogether, yet runs into similar problems.
"They have a very small budget," said Cathy Bradley, Executive Director of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund. "A lot of the budget just goes to traveling to the practice fields, and this [donation] will help them quite a bit."
One of Pool's plans for the donation is to buy uniforms for his varsity team, so that each player will be able to have a Belmont uniform of their own at season's end rather than having to borrow one every year.
Much of the $5,000 will also go to buy gloves, helmets and bats for each team. Before last season began, the varsity team lost its entire bat collection when someone stole 12 to 15 bats during a practice. The team also has plenty of cracked helmets, and some students aren't able to play because they can't afford a glove.
"Everything is going against us, but now we can do something with that gift," Pool said.
Just to keep his program going, Pool -- who attended and played baseball for Belmont -- has given his players money out of his pocket to share the cost of buying needed equipment.
"There's a lot of players who want to play but can't because they don't have any gloves," Joshua Garcia, 17, said.
Belmont does have an on-campus softball field where the girls team practices, yet is too small for the baseball team to use.
"It's hard to get practice time or adequate equipment or a place to try to build a good program," said Pool, who figured that with complications his teams get about 90 minutes less of practice time.
Garcia and his Belmont teammates stood at each entrance to Dodger Stadium and collected used baseball equipment as well as cash donations. The 15 boys and five girls that helped collect donations were given tickets to see the Dodgers face the Diamondbacks later in the evening.
The equipment drive was the 25th and final stop for the Baseball Tomorrow Fund's two-year-old initiative, which was responsible for donation centers in 19 cities last season. It was the first year the Dodgers have participated.
A little less than $40,000 was donated by fans and players all across the country, and more than 8,500 pieces of baseball items -- better than twice of last year's figure -- were given to local youth. That doesn't count the $5,000 given by Major League Baseball at each drive along the way.
Bradley said the goal for next year is to host a drive in all 30 Major League cities.
Greg Wagner is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.