Playing for kicks and a cause Aug. 15 at the old Tiger Stadium.
Photos by John Hardwick
It’s a new Pitch! In celebration of its eighth year “pitching in for Detroit,” Federation’s NEXTGen Detroit will kick off “Pitch Under the Lights” — a night of good sports and fundraising at the new Corner Ballpark (formerly the old Tiger Stadium) in Detroit. All funds raised this year by players, their fans and cheerleaders will go directly to the neighborhood organization Brilliant Detroit and its literacy programming.
Hard to believe it was eight years ago when NEXTGen Detroit threw that first “Pitch for Detroit.” The event was a one-day charity softball tournament, co-founded by NEXTGen Detroit President-Elect Adam Blanck and Benjy Gordon, with the goal “to reconnect the growing numbers of young adults returning to Metro Detroit and engage them with the community through sports and philanthropy.”
That first Pitch was a smash hit. Nearly 160 players and 500 spectators turned out for a day at Drake Park and raised nearly $50,000. Since then, the format has changed to a friendly tournament of kickball and field games (because everyone can play, and everyone loves kickball and cornhole).
“We are re-imagining this year’s Pitch with a weekday format and field games to complement kickball,” said Zack Slabotsky, event co-chair with Abby Rubin and Blair Schwartz.
Blanck added, “Pitch has worked its way into the vernacular of young Jewish Detroiters. We now celebrate it as one of NEXTGen Detroit’s iconic events and plan it every summer to showcase and celebrate new developments in our city. Pitch is about the future of Detroit, proof positive that it’s a great time to return, work, live and play here.”
With more than $250,000 in funds raised for projects and organizations in Detroit over the past seven years, Pitch continues to build on its legacy. Past years’ funds have helped support the neighborhood hub at the Mack Lot; added improvements to Bradby Park; provided vital safety equipment to Firehouse Engine 33/Ladder 13; subsidized rents for young adults moving into the city; and awarded micro-grants to small businesses and nonprofits seeking to improve the city.
THE WOW FACTOR
With its change of venue and timing this year, Pitch takes the field inside the Corner Ballpark — new headquarters for the Detroit Police Athletic League (PAL) and home of the Willie Horton Field of Dreams in Corktown.
“When the sun goes down Aug. 15, we plan to light up the night,” said Abby Rubin. “There will be eight teams at tournament play and plenty for fans to enjoy, with ballpark food from Chef Cari, music and classic field games everyone can play.”
Justin Jacobs, CEO of ComePlayDetroit and principal organizer of the tournament, said, “We couldn’t have chosen a hotter destination in the city for this year’s Pitch. We’re playing on brand new turf in a beautiful stadium — really showcasing the impact of NEXTGen Detroit’s new level of engagement in neighborhood developments Downtown.”
After Pitch, everyone is invited to celebrate on the patio at McShane’s Irish Pub & Whiskey, where 10 percent of sales from Pitch players and fans will be donated to Brilliant Detroit.
THE PLAYING FIELD
The Corner Ballpark at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull has a long history. Today it stands as a showcase for Detroit’s resurgence and neighborhood redevelopment, a destination for tourists, and a new field playing host to sports leagues, tournaments throughout the region, summer camps and PAL programming year-round for kids from every corner of the city.
“I was a PAL kid myself and I know it takes a village to support and sustain our mission,” said Detroit PAL Chief Operating Officer Robert Jamerson. “The transformation of our historic site is for everyone, from little leaguers to future all-stars. We’re proud to give the next generation a chance to play where some of the greats have played.”
Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15. Registration and details are online at pitchfordetroit.com.
Vivian Henoch is editor of Federation’s myjewishdetroit.org, where a longer version of this story first appeared.