Peace Corps and Baseball Tomorrow Fund Team Up To Create a Better Future for Youth Around the World

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 1, 2005 More than 2,400 youth from eight countries around the globe will be learning baseball skills some for the first time from American Peace Corps volunteers as the result of a $65,695 grant awarded by the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, a joint initiative of Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association.

The Baseball Tomorrow Fund grant provides funding for Peace Corps programs and will allow volunteers in Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Moldova, Panama, Samoa, and Turkmenistan to explain the national pastime and teach baseball and softball skills to local youth.

"Sharing the national pastime with youth around the world does more than just encourage kids to improve their athletic skills. Peace Corps youth development volunteers can attest that having focused, fun activities such as baseball helps youth increase their self-esteem, set goals, encourage team-building and prevents kids from engaging in delinquent behavior," said Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez.

"Major League Baseball, its Clubs and its players are committed to enhancing opportunities for youth throughout the world to experience the thrill of baseball and softball," said Cathy Bradley, Executive Director, Baseball Tomorrow Fund. "The Peace Corps grant will help facilitate the growth of existing baseball and softball programs and introduce the sports to numerous children."

The Baseball Tomorrow Fund is designed to promote and enhance the growth of baseball throughout the world by funding programs designed to encourage and maintain youth participation in baseball and softball.

Since its inception in 1999, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund has awarded grants totaling more than $8.5 million and benefiting nearly 100,000 youth participating in more than 170 youth baseball and softball programs across the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, U.S. Virgin Islands and Europe. By providing assistance to Peace Corps volunteers, this is the first time the Baseball Tomorrow Fund is supporting programs and projects in Bulgaria, Moldova, and Turkmenistan. For more information, please visit the Baseball Tomorrow Fund site.

Peace Corps volunteers are uniquely positioned to provide learning opportunities to girls and boys at the grass-roots level, since they live in the communities, understand the culture and traditions and speak the local language. The volunteers serve as role models who help the youth maintain healthy lifestyles and prepare them for their roles in the world of work and in family life. Peace Corps volunteers will be working to help youth in their communities turn their dreams into realities.

Following are the eight countries receiving a Baseball Tomorrow Fund grant and a description of each project:

In Bulgaria, Peace Corps volunteer coordinator Leslie Geer, from Colorado Springs, Colo., is working to create boys and girls Little League baseball and softball teams that will reach out to orphanages in Slatina. In addition, Greer wants to develop a stable program by creating a regular practice facility and introduce baseball and softball into the athletic curriculum in the local schools. The Baseball Tomorrow Fund grant will be used to purchase baseball and softball equipment and materials to build a playing field in efforts to reach more than 400 youth.

Baseball is a popular game in Moldova. Peace Corps volunteer Jennifer Ross of Pleasant Hill, Calif., has been teaching baseball as a way to offer organized programs for youth and give them something productive to do as well as learn teamwork, make new friends, build self-esteem, learn a new skill, and have fun. The Peace Corps is also working with local organizations and individuals to organize this years summer baseball camp. The Basebng with local organizations and individuals to organize this years summer baseball camp. The Baseball Tomorrow Fund grant will help to continue to develop baseball in Moldova, teach baseball in new villages and towns, reaching approximately 130 boys and girls, and make baseball programs more sustainable. This years baseball camp will include 90 participants representing nine teams. Three new teams will be formed, and volunteers will train 10 new coaches.

For the first time ever, baseball leagues will be formed and two fields will be built in the regions of Dashoguz and Mary of Turkmenistan. Married Peace Corps couple Chris Miller and Sari Long of Plymouth, Minn., working with local community leaders, will oversee the formation of leagues and the construction of the fields and will train approximately 500 boys and girls in the fundamentals of baseball. The goal is to provide Turkmenistan youth the resources to develop, learn and play baseball in a constructive, gender-inclusive and respectful atmosphere. It will also promote team-building, self-esteem, gender equality and community involvement. Baseball Tomorrow Fund grant money will also be used to purchase equipment.

Costa Rica
Peace Corps volunteer coordinator Ian May, from Annapolis, Md., is working with the Costa Rican Baseball Federation to promote Little League baseball and organize training for players and coaches. They will also aid in the establishment of youth teams and leagues in four communities.

May will be working with fellow volunteer Brian Green of Milwaukee, Wisconsin to teach sportsmanship and the basics of baseball, as well as strengthen and expand existing primary school baseball teams for kids ages 10-12, establish youth teams for those ages 13-16, and set up training camps for coaches, managers and youth. They expect to reach more than 240 youth through their projects and will use the Baseball Tomorrow Fund grant to purchase baseball and softball equipment, as well as uniforms.

Dominican Republic
The Peace Corps and Major League Baseball in the Dominican Republic are working together to promote baseball by providing much needed equipment, training and organization to teams/leagues in low-income areas. In addition, the project will stimulate an ethic of leadership and solidarity, while providing youth opportunities for healthy out-of-school activities. The Baseball Tomorrow Fund grant money will help purchase equipment and support the projects in 11 communities.

The Peace Corps volunteers teaching baseball to more than 250 low-income youth are: Nicholas Robles of Longmont, Colo., Amanda Gilley of The Woodlands, Texas, Angela Bennett of Arvada, Colo., Kelly Smith of Bradenton, Fla., Megan Bennett of Naples, Fla., Hayes Mann of Wilmington, N.C., Rachel Burnes of South Dartmouth, Mass., Allison Whitehead of Lakewood, Colo., Casey Silva of Marietta, Ga., and Michael Heydt of Maumee, Ohio.

The Peace Corps is working with the National Federation of Baseball to provide training for baseball coaches. The goal is to provide free registration for all newly-formed teams so they can participate in national competitions. A training camp for 10 coaches will be held in Tegucigalpa and will assist the coaches in forming youth baseball teams in their communities. The Baseball Tomorrow Fund grant will be used to purchase equipment and help facilitate the training camp. Ultimately, 150 boys and girls will be taught baseball and organized into these teams.

The 10 volunteers leading this project are: Erin Wehage of Milwaukie, Ore., Zachary Job of Fridley, Minn., Edward Leslie of Shoreline, Wash., Andrew Blandford of St. Louis, Mo., Amanda Card of Shawnee, Okla., Josephine Cooper of Port Huron, Mich., Shapell Randolph of Phenix, Va., April Cordry-Moore of Lancaster, Texas, Molly Goggin-Kuron, Mich., Shapell Randolph of Phenix, Va., April Cordry-Moore of Lancaster, Texas, Molly Goggin-Kehm of Wautoma, Wis., Thomas McCause of Canyon, Texas, Karen Drachler of Highland Park, Ill., and William Viets of Trumbull, Conn.

The Peace Corps volunteers in Panama will help organize teams and develop teamwork skills among approximately 530 youth. By promoting baseball, the volunteers will help to increase interaction and strengthen ties between community members and surrounding areas. The Baseball Tomorrow Fund grant will be used to purchase equipment, clean, renovate, improve and maintain playing fields in nine communities.

The following Peace Corps volunteers will help develop youth baseball in Panama: Christopher Catanazaro of Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., John Nangle of St. Louis, Mo., Johanna Abbinante of Dayton, Ohio, Lauren Koller of Geneva, Ill., Monique Bosquez of Corpus Christie, Texas, Elizabeth Stevick of Chico, Calif., Lucas Underwood of Iowa City, Iowa, Tess Sparks of Julesburg, Colo., Shane Mathias of Los Angeles, Calif., and Michael Gaffney of Warwick, R.I.

Softball is a re-emerging sport in Samoa. Coming off the heels of the 2004 International Softball Federation Mens Softball World Championship held in New Zealand, Samoans interest in the sport has been revitalized. Peace Corps volunteer Paul Clark of Guy, Ark., will build on this interest by working with other Peace Corps members and Japanese volunteers to organize games and clinics, getting approximately 250 youth involved in the project. In the first year, Peace Corps volunteers will work with the Samoan Softball Association to host a softball clinic, organize games, and train villagers on coaching. The Baseball Tomorrow Fund grant will help provide for the purchase of three sets of softball equipment that will be made available to villagers.

Since 1961, more than 178,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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