Mike Staunton had seen the impact Oak Forest Baseball Association (OFBA) could make on young kids. His two sons–ages 12 and 10–had both been playing in the league since before they even entered grade school.
So, when Staunton heard about an inner-city team in need of baseball equipment, he knew exactly where to go.
“We donate a bunch of equipment each year, so this was just a situation that had occurred and we were trying to help out,” said Todd Simon, president of the Oak Forest Baseball Association.
It all started when a criminal decided to steal the station wagon of Charles Daniels, coach of the Chicago Hornets baseball team on Chicago's South Side. Daniels stored all of the team’s baseball equipment, including shoes and uniforms, in the car. The station wagon was how he picked up most of the kids; it was the team’s lifeline.
But everything disappeared on July 14 outside of Daniels’ home in the Marquette Park community.
Staunton heard about the story through his brother-in-law, who was a board member for the Chicago Park District. He immediately went to a couple board members of the OFBA and asked for their help.
“They came through in an unbelievable way,” Staunton said. “They provided three sets of catcher’s equipment, a whole bunch of mitts, tons of balls, tons and tons of stuff.”
Bill Walsh, OFBA’s equipment director, was one of the first people to help. Each year OFBA goes through its league equipment, deciding what to keep and what needs to be replaced. They had lots of gloves in their lost-and-found and were able to come up with a good amount of equipment. In addition, Walsh gave away some bats and spikes that his kids had outgrown.
“We’re just trying to extend out and help these guys,” Walsh said. “We’re a baseball organization, and we like to help out other organizations if we can.”
OFBA wasn’t the only people to help out the team in need. The Tinley Park Bulldogs donated uniforms and all kinds of T-shirts. The uniforms had major league emblems on the front and American flags on the sleeves. They weren’t going to the help the team performance-wise, but they still brought smiles to the kids on the Hornets.
“The week the stuff got stolen, the field stayed empty and they had no game because they had nothing to play with,” Staunton said. “This past Saturday, the kids had no idea any of the stuff was waiting for them and the kids were just going nuts when they got to the park.”
Even after the Hornets are back to playing baseball, OFBA is still working to provide better opportunities. There are plans to invite them to play a game in the fall versus an in-house team from Oak Forest. The game will be played under the lights, on a nice field and with a PA announcer.
“We’re not the biggest baseball organization around, but we have a lot of people that take heart when they see a team in need,” Simon said.
“You’re a kid one time and you want to make sure they remember their youth,” Walsh said. “It’s been a fond memory of mine, and I think that’s why I continue to help.”