Hamels gives grant to revamp high school gym
Phillies pitcher's foundation continues dedication to education
PHILADELPHIA -- Walk through the doors of Swenson Arts and Technology High School, and you think you're getting ready to catch a flight rather than get an education.
A conveyer belt used to check bags is off to the right of a metal screening machine. Three security officers, handcuffs dangling from their hips, are there to greet you.
This is where Cole Hamels finds himself the Tuesday morning of his scheduled start against the Marlins, dressed in a gray suit, light blue shirt and striped tie.
It is a far cry from any school he attended growing up in San Diego, where computers and college-level classes enriched an education he says was "beyond what people even get here or even what college kids can even amount to in the first year or two."
It is also why Hamels and his wife, Heidi, were here to present a $50,000 grant to enhance -- make that revolutionize -- Swenson's gymnasium, an old motor shop tucked in back of the career and technical education center.
"Just knowing the kids can see results, that's the biggest thing," Hamels said. "A lot of times, people can tell you you're going to get this, you can do this, but if people don't see the finished result, I don't think they believe in it as much."
Based on the socio-economic status of its students and its limited funding for educational provisions, Swenson received the largest gift from the 2011 Hamels Foundation Education Grants along with Shaw Middle School, whose $50,000 grant will go toward building a library.
A record-number 17 schools in the School District of Philadelphia were awarded $197,000 in grants -- contributions used to provide library furniture, books, arts and reading programs, calculators, science kits and more.
With Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed public education budget cuts, such a renovation was beyond Swenson principal David Kipphut's dreams, one he's envisioned for years.
Having two parents who work in education back home in California, Hamels has heard plenty of how state funding can cripple an educator's wishes. It's also why he's stepping up to the plate.
"That's where things are going to have to make a change," Hamels said. "People are going to have to come forth and take into consideration that the future is obviously the kids, and if you want to make the future bright, you have to start from when kids are young and try to bring them up the right way so we don't make the same mistakes that the older generations have made."
Since its inception in 2008, the Hamels Foundation has raised more than $650,000 to rebuild and reshape schools across the Philadelphia region, Heidi said.
"I was raised in rural poverty," said Heidi, who taught physical education in Missouri for two years. "I always say to myself, 'If I would have my own son or daughter go here and this is what they're getting, this is the education they're getting, there's a problem with that.' You should want to be proud of this, and every kid deserves that opportunity to have a gym."
A handful of stationary basketball hoops make the concrete floor and gray- and white-painted walls pass as a gymnasium.
Kipphut will parlay the money from the Hamels Foundation with a few other monetary gifts to transform the gym into a full-equipped fitness center. He hopes to have a finished product by November and can save money by having his students handle electrical and carpentry labor.
"I loved their idea because it was lifelong," Heidi said. "It's not just, 'Hey, we want a gym so our kids can play basketball.' It was, 'We want this facility so they know when they graduate high school they'll know how to do weight training, they'll know how to go into a gym and become a member and know how to do all the equipment. That's the way I teach, so it was very close to my heart."
Nate Mink is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.