Professional baseball teams are always looking for ways to get involved with charities and in the community. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders have taken that practice to another level.
Having been lost in the eyes of the community in previous years, the team has stormed back, donating to numerous charities, helping out those in need or just honoring various persons or organizations all over Northeast Pennsylvania during the current baseball season.
According to the 2012 Community Report on the team’s website, it raised $167,000 last year for various organizations. RailRiders president and general manager Rob Crain said that the report for 2013 has not been compiled yet. But he is extremely optimistic about the numbers.
“That number is most definitely passed,” Crain said. “We’re very confident that number is blown away and we are very fortunate to have given back this year.”
The digits are expected to be significantly higher than last year due to several reasons. One is that the team is playing home games once again at PNC Field after spending the 2012 season without a home. While games at the reconstructed ballpark have been a hit with fans, fans and the RailRiders have been doing something community-oriented at every game.
Every time there is a professional game in Moosic, the RailRiders honor a specific organization with the Community Organization of the Night program, which Crain brought with him from his previous post with the Omaha Storm Chasers. Another daily honor at the ballpark is military recognition, where a current or former member(s) of the military is acknowledged by throwing out a ceremonial first pitch and being honored for their services.
“We want to be ingrained in the community and those things have helped us do that,” Crain added. “They help us market and share with the community. Not a lot of businesses in the area can do that and I think it’s pretty cool that we can do that.”
The aforementioned are great concepts. But one thing the team has grabbed the most attention for is its relationship with Allied Services. The two have partnered up for many programs throughout the year and the most popular is the Home Run for Rehab program. That’s when a person, who has suffered through an ailment, shows his or her progress by running around the bases during a certain game with the RailRiders and the opposing team lined up on the foul lines congratulating the patient. A video montage is also played on the board and almost never leaves a dry eye in the stands or on the field.
This program was started when the team’s vice president of corporate partnerships Mike Trudnak and personnel from Allied thought of the idea. Also with Allied, the team held an auction in June where thousands of dollars were raised for the organization, as fans had an opportunity to bid on many baseball and non-baseball items. On the same night, the RailRiders wore special autism awareness jerseys during the game and also auctioned off those jerseys for the charity.
Crain said that tens of thousands were raised for Allied this year and that more specialized jerseys could be on the way for the 2014 season.
“I want to increase the number of specialty jerseys. I would like to, anytime we have a specialty jersey, we would like to tie it into a charity,” he said. “I would like to raise more money. The players like them, the fans like them, the staff likes them and I like them.”
In 2012, one of the things the team started to do was the Adopt-A-Field Program, where members of the front office and groundskeepers makeover a chosen Little League field with a big league atmosphere. Last year, the team worked on two fields. With the team playing on the road all season, it was a no-brainer.
Even though the team returned this year and the stadium would now need more attention, the team’s brass still wanted to continue the program. And it not only kept that up, two more fields were added, as they made over four fields this summer.
“There are so many (charity events) to choose from but that’s one of my favorites,” Crain said about the field adoption program. “It’s an instant impact in that the people who go to the Little Leagues one day and then they go the next day and they are like ‘look at that.’ It’s instant gratification.”