“If an off-season effort to make the world a better place is an indication of success, the Deerfield Youth Baseball and Softball Association (DYBA) 9U Red traveling team is in championship form.
The 11 youthful ball players have interspersed their monthly indoor workouts with acts of charity since Thanksgiving to teach the boys about giving back and building team chemistry.
“We believe in team building with the kids and planting seeds to give back to the community,” team Manager Paul Chanan said. “And I have a captive audience.”
With the 2015 team selected late last summer, Chanan made it clear the charity work and winter practices were all voluntary. Despite the proviso, turnout for both has been good. They have been visiting the elderly, feeding the hungry and providing books to those who cannot afford them.
“We’re looking for ways to build team unity and helping others,” Team Coordinator Jen Ransburg said. “We talk it over and come up with service projects.”
Chanan and Ransburg cook up the ideas the ideas together. Their first brainstorm produced the idea of giving autographed baseballs to residents at the Whitehall of Deerfield which caters to seniors in need of health care around Thanksgiving.
“We got a whole lot of baseballs for the kids to sign and went from room to room telling (the residents) what we were doing,” Chanan said. “We wanted them to feel good around the holidays.”
By the time the team was finished at Whitehall, the players were starting to get the message Chanan and Ransburg wanted to impart.
“Helping others felt really good,” said Mason Hirsch, a team member and Kipling Elementary School student. “It was really good because we gave them something to make them feel good.”
For their next project, 9U Red came up with a Super Bowl theme. Around that time, selling squares in a grid is a popular game tied to the score at the end of each quarter and the final tally.
The players combined to sell 100 squares at $5 each.
Usually, the prize money is divided up among the luckiest contestants, but this time the beneficiaries were the hungry.
Some of the money was used to purchase and deliver 100 pasta dinners to the Hillside Food Pantry in Evanston, take fresh fruit to the PADS shelter which houses the homeless at Deerfield’s First Presbyterian Church each Sunday, and $230 went to the West Deerfield Township Food Pantry.
Though the players had to ask people donate $5 for each square, they dove right into the task.
“I asked a lot of my family members,” said team member and South Park Elementary School student Bradley Nickel. “They said yes because they wanted to help good people who have to struggle to find food.”
“Half the names (on my son’s) square were bubbe,” Ransburg said, referring to the Yiddish word from grandmother.
The boys also followed through with the project delivering the check to the pantry in person and meeting at Jewett Park to put a package of pasta, a can of sauce and a small container of Parmesan cheese in individual containers for the Hillside patrons.
Not to sit still, the team members spent the afternoon of Feb. 28 bagging books for those who cannot afford them at Bernie’s Book Bank in Lake Forest.
“It was fun,” said Harper Ransburg, another team member and South Park student. “They have over 150,000 books and we packed 5,000 of them. It felt good to pack books for people who cannot afford them.”
The team building message was not lost either. Hirsch said charitable works will lead to good play on the field.
“Knowing our team did this will make good karma when we play baseball,” Hirsch said.”
Steve Sadin is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press