Tag Archives: Community

Foundry Field project using baseball to build community in South Bend’s urban core, tell hidden histories

By STEVE KRAH
http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Enriching the community through baseball and telling the stories of underrepresented groups is the aim of bringing Foundry Field to South Bend’s Southeast Neighborhood Park.
A vision meeting attended by 10 people happened in the fall of 2018. The project was launched in 2019.
“We’re passionate about it,” says Matthew Insley, project chairman and Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation president. “We’re all committed to South Bend.
“We were slowed by COVID-19. But that presented an opportunity to dig in with partnerships.”
Community partners include Boys & Girls Club of St. Joseph County, Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame, Civil Rights Heritage Center at Indiana University South Bend, South Bend Community School Corporation, South Bend Venues, Parks & Arts, Southeast Organized Area Residents (SOAR) and The History Museum.
As part of Phase One, Nov. 5 is the deadline for a crowdfunding campaign, featuring a $50,000 matching grant from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority’s CreatINg Places program.
Construction is to begin in 2023 with play starting in 2024.
Phase Two includes public and private funding for historical research and public art. Phase Three is centered on community space.
With the help of our donors and collaborators, the Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation has the goal of placing a diamond and showcase public art and historical markers that pay tribute to undervalued legends of the past near downtown. Southeast Neighborhood Park is located at Fellows and Wenger streets.
Among the hidden histories to be highlighted are those of the Foundry Giants (an African-American baseball team that played in South Bend’s Studebaker Industrial League in the 1930’s) and Uncle Bill’s All Colored Girls Softball Team that excelled in the region in the ’30s and ‘40s).
“We want to tell these stories about baseball history,” says Insley. “I’d like to see the game return to the day when it had a lot more diversity. Baseball has become an elite, exclusive game. It was never that.
“Are we going to change the world? No. But we’re going to do our part.”
Insley and Mike Hebbeler (who is program director at the Center for Social Concerns) founded the Sappy Moffitt Baseball League in 2013.
The league — named for former South Bend Green Stockings pitcher Elmer “Sappy” Moffitt, who was born in nearby New Carlisle and is the all-time leader in innings pitched, strikeouts and wins in South Bend professional baseball history — features more than 120 adults playing recreational games on Sunday afternoons at Boland Park.
Team names are a nod to the heritage and places in South Bend. There’s the Du Lac Rockets, Ironhides, Monroe Park Millracers, Oliver Chill, Ottawa Arrowheads, Porters, River Park LongNecks, South Shore Liners and Studebaker Larks.
“We want to play in the urban core,” says Insley, who sees Foundry Field as a place not only for the adult league but for youths in organized or pick-up baseball.
“It’s been near to see guys playing with their kids in (the Sappy Moffitt League). There’s something powerful about kids watching adults play.”
A train wall will double as an outfield barrier and a location for murals and markers.
“It becomes more than a baseball field,” says Insley. “It’s a broadly-utilized space — an impactful space.”
Clinton Carlson, an associate professor for Visual Communication in Notre Dame’s Department of Art, Art History & Design and a Sappy Moffitt League player, has lent his expertise to the group for the past year.
“I’m a designer,” says Carlson. “I use my skills to help share the vision of Foundry Field.
“Let’s get more baseball being played by adults and kids. We want to drive more kids to play. We don’t want to replace rec leagues or Little Leagues that might be struggling.”
Milt Lee, the Director of Community Programs and K-12 Athletics for South Bend Community School Corporation, got to know project originators as a player with the Studebaker Larks.
“I discovered that these are really sincere guys — not just in everyday life but when it came to being responsible community people,” says Lee. “When they brought the idea of creating a field where people can mentor young people, come and play pick-up baseball, learn how to become good teammates and learn life lessons you certainly can’t pass it up. It means everything to South Bend Schools.”
Lee says the aim of the corporation is aligned with the Foundry Field project.
“A major strategic priority of ours is to introduce non-traditional Olympic sports to kids in underserved communities throughout the corporation,” says Lee. “One of those sports happens to be baseball.
“The number of kids in South Bend — particularly black kids — has dramatically decreased since the 1970s.
“We’ve determined to create equitable access to those types of sports in those areas. That’s a major priority of ours. One is the reasons is that the more kids are exposed to games at an early age the more they’ll play multiple sports and play sports for a lifetime so they’ll have better mental and physical health. We’re trying to change health outcomes in underserved communities through recreation and athletics.”
Lee says the area around Southeast Neighborhood Park has a reputation of being a tough place to live.
“I can’t think of a better area and neighborhood to have a beautiful space and place that would make people feel proud and be a place where kids and families could gather to have unbelievable experiences,” says Lee.
South Bend Community Schools — where there is open enrollment and magnet schools — is taking a neighborhood approach with its students. Lee sees programs like those at Foundry Field and nearby facilities like the Boys & Girls Club will get as many as possible to go to Riley High School.
“We want to make sure all the coaches, athletic directors and families
gather as a neighborhood and begin to build relationships that would encourage them to stay together,” says Lee. “If we can keep these kids connected early in their neighborhoods, the better chance we have to keep those kids in our high school system.
“We can stave off some of that migration (to corporations outside South Bend).”
As Lee sees it, high schools ADs — Dawn Huff at Adams, Al Hartman at Clay, Seabe Gavin at Riley and Garland Hudson at Washington among them — should be be seen as the neighborhood CEO for sports and athletics and invite young kids to campus for camps and competitions etc.
Lee says there is some baseball for SBCSC middle schoolers.
“We’ve been losing student-athletes left and right in our middle school program because of the whole travel baseball phenomenon. The more we have kids playing the game at age 5, 6, 7, 8 and working with our Little Leagues, I think we can create some type of base training and feeder program to our high schools.
“The sooner we can get kids playing the game and make they fall in love with it and get them connected to really good coaches, we hope to have them playing the game for a lifetime.”
A diversity of interests and talents are going into the project. Some are focused on the baseball side. Others on fundraising, grant writing, design or historical research.
Greg Bond, Sports Archivist for Hesburgh Libraries and the Curator of the Joyce Sports Research Collection at Notre Dame, is affiliated with the school’s Sport, Media and Culture Minor.
He is helping with research and notes that the stories will be told through a variety of media and does not need to be constrained to a physical location such as the location of Foundry Field.
“It will be accessible to people in other ways to be determined,” says Bond. “We want to make this a sustainable project (for future researchers). One big push is to make it not dependent on people involved right now. That’s very important.
“It’s heartening to see how many people are passionate about this project.”
Katherine Walden, an Assistant Teaching Professor of American Studies at Notre Dame, is also part of the Foundry Field project along with her students.
Among courses regularly taught by Walden is “Baseball and America.”

Foundry Field is coming to the urban core in South Bend, Ind.
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
Foundry Field drawing. (Sappy Moffitt Field Foundation Image)
One of the hidden histories to be told at Foundry Field is that of Uncle Bill’s All Colored Girls Softball Team. (Northern Indiana Center for History Photo)
Elmer “Sappy” Moffitt.

The Sappy Moffitt Baseball League was founded in South Bend, Ind., in 2013.

Character counts for Pennington, Eastern Musketeers

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

The longer Jeff Pennington is in coaching and education, the more he realizes that developing athletic skills — in his case, baseball — is secondary to fostering character.

“It’s not just the game of baseball,” says Pennington, who is in his seventh season as head coach at Eastern High School in Pekin, Ind., in 2019. “It’s the kind of young men they’re going to grow up to be.”

Seeing young men grow the attributes of respect, mental toughness, hustle and intensity — things that apply to life as well as sports — is what gives Pennington fulfillment.

“We are already know they’re baseball guys,” says Pennington. “What kind of young men we can turn these young guys into?”

Pennington, who teaches at East Washington Elementary School in Pekin, says the those lessons can start long before the teenage years.

“They can be established at 8, 9, 10 years old,” says Pennington. “You think they’re not hearing it, but it goes in.

“Now we’ve got them in high school. We’re starting see some of those benefits.”

Carson Ehlers, Payton Miller and Adam Stempowski are seniors. Hunter Anderson, Landon Snelling, Joe Fetz, and Rhett Pennington are juniors. Ryan Adamson, Brant Farris, Ethan Ford, Conner Gonzalez, Cauy Motsinger, Snyder Pennington and Adam Stewart are sophomores. Micah Robinson, Dallis Stayton and Clayton Young are freshmen. Miller, Anderson, Adamson, Motsinger, Gonzalez and both Pennington brothers are pitchers.

All three of Jeff and Mindi Pennington’s sons — junior Rhett (17), sophomore Snyder (16) and sixth grader Wyatt (11) — are ballplayers. All three play travel baseball. Rhett is with Louisville-based Wolves, Snyder with the Indiana Trailblazers and Wyatt and cousin Garrett Drury (son of brother Wes and sister-in-law Holly) with the Southern Indiana Rawlings Tigers.

There’s a lot of moving parts when getting players to games.

“It takes a village,” says Pennington. “This is one of the advantages of moving back home. Between (family members, including sister Jessica Huls and parents, Ronnie Pennington and Cindy Erwin), you just divide and conquer.

“I’ve been three different places in one weekend watching three different kids. It’s fun. But, man, it’s a whirlwind.”

Pennington is a 1992 graduate of Salem (Ind.) High School, where he played baseball for head coach Derek Smith.

Smith showed Pennington that its the relationships with the players that’s important.

“He was the kind of coach you could jell with real well,” says Pennington. “He was easygoing. He could take the discomfort out of you when you weren’t comfortable.”

Pennington played two-plus seasons at Indiana University Southeast when Rick Parr was head coach.

“I probably learned about hitting then anymore else I’ve been around,” says Pennington. “He was a very good hitting coach.”

Prior to returning to Washington County, Pennington spent seven years coaching middle school and high school baseball at Community in Unionville, Tenn.

Before that, he was an assistant for a couple of seasons at South Central (Elizabeth).

Pennington’s assistants are principal Darin Farris and volunteer Rick Snelling.

Eastern (enrollment around 460) is a member of the Mid-Southern Conference (with Austin, Brownstown Central, Charlestown, Clarksville, Corydon Central, North Harrison, Salem, Scottsburg and Silver Creek).

Opponents on the non-conference portion of the schedule include Borden, Crawford County, Henryville, Mitchell, North Vermillion, Lanesville, Orleans, Paoli, Seymour, South Central (Elizabeth), Southwestern (Hanover), Springs Valley, Trinity Lutheran and West Washington. It’s only a varsity slate that Eastern is playing this spring.

The Musketeers are part of an IHSAA Class 2A sectional grouping with Clarksville, Crawford County, Henryville, Lanesville and Paoli. Eastern has won four sectional crowns — the last in 2012.

Larry Ingram led the Eastern program for years.

“There’s a rich history of baseball at this high school,” says Pennington. “My goal to get it back where Coach Ingram had it.”

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The Eastern High School baseball team in Pekin, Ind., has three members of the Pennington family in 2019 (from left): junior Rhett, head coach Jeff and sophomore Snyder.

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Jeff Pennington is the head baseball coach at Eastern High School in Pekin, Ind. (Melissa Stewart Photo)

Thompson brings NG3 values of character, community and change to Indiana

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By STEVE KRAH

http://www.IndianaRBI.com

Coaches and educators are busy people.

They are balancing practice schedules, lineups, game strategy, lesson plans and more.

Lending a helping hand in the areas of character development, servant leadership and other positive behaviors is where NG3 — headquartered in Atlanta — comes in.

The “NG” stands for Next Generation and the “3” stands for Character, Community and Change.

Jason Thompson, who has launched N3 in Indiana with Jimtown High School as the pilot in 2017-18 after spending a year learning the program while serving a school in Georgia, explains the C’s a little more.

“Character means do what you say,” says Thompson. “Community means serving others. Change means bring positive change wherever you go.”

A non-profit, faith-based organization, NG3 invests in the lives of high school students, spending time with them and teaching them valuable lessons while providing mentors in small gatherings known as “Huddle Groups.”

While Thompson and other volunteer mentors have been ever-present at Jimtown, he has also met with student-athletes at other schools in northern Indiana, including Fairfield and Goshen and has established partnerships with Jimtown, NorthWood and Triton for 2018-19.

“My hope is to add at least two schools a year moving forward,” says Thompson, a former football player at Concord High School and Anderson University who established a sports ministry at Nappanee Missionary Church. “We will have a person at each school we work with — people who are invested and embedded in those communities. Long-term, I’d like to see NG3 in every school in Indiana. That’s a big goal.

“NG3 is coming along at just the right time. I am passionate about helping people and teams reach their potential.

“We want to be present on school campuses on a weekly basis. A lot of students are probably skeptical at first. They have adults in their lives that are here and gone. It may be a parent or a coach.

“We don’t want to be a flash in the pan. We aim to be there for the long haul and model all those character traits for them.”

Thompson got involved at Jimtown through his relationship at NMC with former high school principal Jeff Ziegler and continues to work with current JHS principal Byron Sanders.

This spring, Thompson has been able to work closely with the Jimtown baseball program. He is at practice several times a week and makes it a point to be at home varsity and junior varsity contests. “We continue to build relationships. We are there be an encouragers.

“Coaches find that ‘other voice’ is beneficial to them.”

Thompson, who holds bachelor of education and master of ministries degrees from Bethel College, has helped coordinate service projects for Jimtown coach Darin Mast and other Jimmies teams and classes.

“We come in and serve,” says Thompson. “It’s about being available, being present.”

School-wide, Jimtown has about 50 kids involved in huddle groups.

These groups of generally 10 students or less meet once a week, usually in the home of one of the group’s members.

“You can get real,” says Mast of the small group. “You can do life.

“It builds much more community.”

Thompson says the goal is to get to the point that huddle groups can be offered to all students.

Mast has known Thompson for years from serving with him at NMC.

“He’s like a spiritual/mental athletic trainer so to speak,” says Mast of Thompson. “It means something to him.”

Mast continues to compliment NG3.

“I really like the concept of what they’re doing,” says Mast. “The whole point of a team anyway is bringing that togetherness.”

Mast likes taking time to build character and addressing concepts like integrity, commitment, honesty, social media, family, trust, loyalty, perseverance, teamwork and excellence and having the students define those traits and what it means when they add or subtract those from their lives. “So much time is spent with X’s and O’s and the ins and outs of the sport.

“I felt like it was something that needed to be addressed and now we have an avenue to do that.”

Mast said that coaches are ultimately graded on their won-loss record.

“That’s the No. 1 priority,” says Mast. “But I’ve failed them as a coach if I haven’t helped them become productive members of society — great workers, husbands and dads.

“It’s all that stuff goes into character development and leadership with NG3.”

Mast says the IHSAA’s InsideOut Initiative of leaving the “win-at-all-costs” culture goes hand-in-hand with the ideals of NG3.

Darin Kauffman first heard Thompson speak to the Fairfield girls basketball team during their run to the regional last winter. Darin’s wife, Lindsay, is an assistant to Falcons head coach Brodie Garber.

Kauffman, who is in his first season as head baseball coach at Fairfield, invited Thompson to address his players and plans to do it again.

“I have athletes who have not played baseball in awhile,” says Kauffman. “I wanted them to hear about being a great teammate and how we can mesh and play together. And hear it from someone outside

“(Thompson) is a great speaker. He talks at their level. I think the guys got a lot out of it.

“It’s a great program. I’m glad we have that in our area.”

Thompson sends a weekly email called “Coaches are Leaders” to a list of about 75 with tips and links to articles that reinforce the NG3 model.

“I want to find ways to serve coaches,” says Thompson.

Tim Dawson, an Indiana High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Famer, was Thompson’s coach at Concord.

“He brought passion and excitement,” says Thompson of Dawson. “He used football to teach so many life lessons.”

As he headed off to college, Thompson thought he was going to be a teacher and coach.

“I’ve come full circle,” says Thompson. “This almost better than coaching. I get to work with athletes across teams.”

Helping his along the way is his family.

Jason and Rachael Thompson, who will be married 16 years in May, have two daughters Haley (11) and Natalie (7). The family resides in Nappanee. Rachael Thompson, a Goshen High School graduate, teaches at Prairie View Elementary School in Goshen.

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Jason Thompson (second from left in back row) spends time in the dugout with the Jimtown High School baseball team. Thompson is the Indiana director for NG3 and has spent the 2017-18 school year embedded with Jimtown students.

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NG3 Indiana director Jason Thompson addresses baseball players at Fairfield High School.