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  • Steve Patten (left) and Jeff Potter (right) have a passion for baseball and teaching youth the importance of community service.
    Photos by Zach Sparks
    Steve Patten (left) and Jeff Potter (right) have a passion for baseball and teaching youth the importance of community service.
  • On June 24, Potter Baseball player Evan Kalinski (right) cut apples for his team during the Arnold Park cook-off to benefit Harbour School.
    On June 24, Potter Baseball player Evan Kalinski (right) cut apples for his team during the Arnold Park cook-off to benefit Harbour School.

Potter Baseball Players Dive Headfirst Into Civic Service

Zach Sparks
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July 8, 2014

For athletes on the Potter Baseball Tour, the most rewarding moments don’t occur when they steal a base or drive in a run; those gratifying occasions surface when they serve the homeless at a soup kitchen or teach underprivileged children how to field a ground ball. Jeff Potter started the tour five years ago for that reason, to combine baseball with community service, and teach young men that there is more to competition than wins and losses.

“I don’t like the way youth sports have gone,” Potter acknowledged. “It’s all about winning and showcasing. I want to bring baseball back to the way it used to be, where there is respect and fun.”

Players ages 13 to 15 are able to travel to 40 towns as part of two three-week tours throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio. Athletes lead skill-building clinics, raise funds and awareness for charities, participate in cook-offs and, of course, engage in America’s pastime. During those trips, Potter preaches what he calls the four tenets - passion, hard work, respect and selflessness. On June 24, teens applied those virtues during an afternoon of pickup games and a culinary battle at Arnold Park, designed to gain financial support for the Harbour School in Annapolis.

“We needed a charity in Broadneck to raise a few dollars for, so I thought Harbour School would be perfect because it is close by,” Potter explained between games. “We’re thrilled to be out here. It’s not like we are making a ton of money, but people are coming out and seeing they can make a difference.”

Shaun Fair, owner of Three Brothers Italian Restaurant in Odenton, used the help of a few players to prepare pizza during the Arnold Park cook-off. His son, Timothy, is a catcher, a pitcher, an infielder and the youngest player on the tour. The father said Potter Baseball does not hold tryouts and every athlete is allowed to join.

“Last year, there was one kid that was a little slower developmental-wise. He loved baseball, and Potter had him play right field for an inning, and the pitcher allowed him to hit the ball and get on first base,” Fair recalled. “It’s priceless. When you do stuff like that, it makes you feel good and we can’t teach the kids anything better than that.”

Potter has a tour director in each city that arranges for an opposing team to play and a charity to benefit. Some of the signature stops on this year’s tour include PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Shanksville, Pennsylvania – where the boys will honor the crew members and passengers who died in Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 – and Prince George’s Stadium, home of the Bowie Baysox.

“We went to PNC Park in Pittsburgh last year and watched a Pirates game, and then the field was cleaned and the Potter families were invited to play,” Fair noted. “My son at 12 years old got to pitch on a major league mound and play a game at PNC Park against some All-Stars from Butler, Pennsylvania. How cool is that? No matter what happens for the rest of his life, he will always remember that.”

The athletes love bonding, but more importantly, they enjoy volunteer work. Currently in his third tour, Jessie Beaver said every stop provides that opportunity. “I enjoy the interaction with the kids and the life lessons we learn,” he highlighted. “[The youth] love when we come, and it’s fun to see the enjoyment they get out of it.”

Beth Doubleday said her son, Zach, was previously in a regional youth league. She was attracted to the character traits taught by Potter Baseball.

“He loves his teammates,” she insisted. “That wasn’t the case on the team he was on before, so he feels like his skills got better and he is respected as a player by the coach. He feels connected with every player on the team.”

In five years, Potter Baseball has more than doubled the towns visited on its tour, and the number of charities aided. The founder expects it to keep growing, as more adolescents realize the importance of serving their communities.

“I think we will make events bigger and raise more money, and it won’t be because of Potter Baseball,” Potter proclaimed. “It will happen because we inspired people in towns to do something for others, and that’s the nice part about the tour. People want to see how they can make an impact other than supporting me and Potter Baseball. They’re doing charitable work on their own.”

Potter stressed that the tour will visit any town where there is a cause people are passionate about. To learn more about Potter Baseball, visit www.jeffpotterbaseball.com.

 


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