Monday, December 1, 2008

Baseball & Hot Dogs

This came from the latest One Spirt Newsletter:

A Baseball Story

Darrin Merrival – A Pine Ridge High School Baseball Coach
John Selvaggio – A Hot Dog Vendor from New York
Matthew Mazzuco – A Student at Branford High School in Connecticut

What do all these three people have in common? They all share the same hope of keeping the dream of Baseball alive for the young people living on Pine Ridge Reservation.

Darrin Merrival coaches the Pine Ridge High School Baseball team in South Dakota. Darrin really enjoys coaching the young men on the team and they have all come along way since he first began coaching. In the beginning, Darrin’s team went two years without a win. Now, they are competing with almost every team they play.

As soon as the high school season is over Darrin coaches a little league team in the summer. The summer baseball league is sponsored by Oglala Sioux Child Care program. Darrin stated, “I am really proud of the young men that played for me this summer. I can still remember all of the smiles on those young men. That is what keeps me going.” Darrin is also a math teacher at the Pine Ridge High School.

The baseball season starts in March but Darrin is concerned about the amount of baseball equipment and funds they will have to keep the young men playing.

Darrin stated, “My dream is to someday have our own Little League field and High School field. Currently we play on a softball field which is too big for Little League and too small for High School. Oglala Sioux Child Care program sponsors the younger division, but they can't build a field they can only maintain it. I hope there is someone out there that reads this that can help us financially. We can do the labor, we just don't have the financial resources. Our Reservation is currently the second poorest county in the nation. There is not a lot of things for our youth to do. I remember a few years ago when our team went to All-Stars and only a few of them had cleats. My nephew talked to one of the young men that played against us and he said "Those guys are pretty good, but most of them don't even have cleats". This year Brad Conroy of Oglala Sioux Child Care program child care got us a deal ($30) and every young man had cleats for the season.”

John Selvaggio is from Long Island, New York. John owns a hot dog stand from which he solicits donations for Pine Ridge. John’s passion is to help get the young men the sports equipment they need. John displays a sign in front of the stand asking for baseball equipment to be donated to the youth in Pine Ridge. John took a trip with his family this past summer to Pine Ridge to deliver the equipment that he had collected to Darrin in person. John, his wife, daughter, and father-in-law came to Darrin’s father’s buffalo ranch and stayed the night in their mobile home. The next day Darrin gave them a tour of his father's ranch. A couple days later, Darrin took all of the equipment to the field and let the youth pick and choose what they wanted and was all put to good use. John stated that as soon as they returned from the trip he received the news that another 20 bats, 15 mitts and 4 sets of catchers gear were collected. John is looking forward to another visit next year to deliver the equipment.

Darrin is also patiently awaiting another arrival of equipment from Matt Mazzuco. Matt, a senior at Branford High School in Connecticut, ran a baseball camp and collected gear as payment for the camp.

Matt Mazzucco remembered when one of his high school teachers collected items that were donated to the Pine Ridge Reservation through the One Spirit “Christmas Gift Box Program”. He decided that he too wanted to help the reservation, but with a specific focus in mind. Matt, who plays baseball, wanted to benefit the athletic programs on the reservation. Most athletic programs typically lack adequate equipment, which often discourages kids from participating. Consequently, Matt organized a baseball clinic for 9- to 13-year-olds at the Connecticut SportsPlex. The clinic featured players from a minor league baseball team that taught the game's fundamentals. There was no admission to attend, but players should bring donations of baseball equipment that will be given to the reservation."When I researched the reservation, I was amazed at the level of poverty that can occur in this country so I wanted to do a project that would make a difference and that I could look back on with pride," says Matt, who's doing this project in conjunction with Eagle Scouts. "As someone who's played baseball since I was five, I feel it's a great game that everyone deserves a chance to play. It makes me feel good that I have the opportunity to make an impact on several kids' lives and give them a chance to play baseball.”Darrin and his team are very grateful for the equipment he teams has received from both John and Matt and they will continue to need support to keep their baseball team running. Aside from their need for equipment such as gloves, cleats and bats, Darrin and his team face the frustration of the lack of finances to pay for the field and for transportation. Several times Darrin and his team were not able to make it to their game because they did not have any way to transport the team to the location.

If you would like to participate in keeping baseball alive on the reservation or to donate any baseball equipment, please contact Jeri Baker at jbaker@nativeprogress.org.

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