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Knights Baseball Club Community Investments Bring Families Together

Monday, March 18, Corvallis, Ore. – The Corvallis Knights are known for winning and affordable family fun. The team has been bringing community together at OSU’s Goss Stadium – the home of champions – since 2007 and is committed to growing the game.

The club has worked diligently at keeping traditional community events vital, like the Richardson Oregon All-Star Series and Northwest Baseball Coaches Association Convention, and at making the game inclusive while always promoting the community enrichment aspect of baseball.

Since the organization relocated its West Coast League club to Corvallis, a lot has changed in baseball. Some for the good, but the game has left some behind.

Once a sport that was rooted in community has now become elite in some respects, from the affordability of equipment, participation fees and field access, to all the travel required to be competitive, to the cost of special instruction.

The trend has not been kind to underserved inner-city and rural areas.

When programs are not maintained or growing, interest fades and communities lose. Kids lose.

That’s not winning. Knights Baseball Club is opposed to community divestiture like what we’re seeing in baseball and to making the game for only those with wherewithal.

It does not have to be that way. Baseball is a sport that traditionally brings communities together. It’s a slice of Americana and nothing but positive for kids and families. It’s a connector. With that at the forefront, the Knights are dedicated to intensifying their efforts at perpetuating the game and bringing people together.

It will take time and effort to ignite and inspire, to change course. It will take great teammates to do this. It will take the industry looking at the whole and considering the greater good of what the game does best when inclusive and attending to the needs of underserved areas – healthier communities, development of youth, increased participation (both playing & spectating), better baseball, and more connecting opportunities for families and neighbors.

“One of the top opportunities for our youth to develop socially, emotionally and physically, is through sports, especially baseball,” said Knights Baseball Club board member Randy Rutschman. “There are not many places in our educational system where kids can learn leadership, teamwork, getting along, goal setting, determination, bouncing back from adversity and following rules, better than baseball.

“My family, along with the Knights and some great friends of mine, never want a young person to be held back from playing baseball because of financial reasons.”

Like Rutsch, Knights Baseball Club is doing something. We’ll share more on that later. But it will take baseball leaders to join forces to lift all boats for baseball to shine brightly, everywhere, like yesteryear.

Let’s harken back, as much as we can, to the days when baseball thrived in all communities, and everyone played the game, and it was competitive from top to bottom. It can be done, more and better baseball in rural Oregon and inner-city PDX.

Established in 1990, Knights Baseball Club was born in Portland many decades ago. We’ve seen firsthand the decline in player participation, the evaporation of youth leagues and the degradation of overall competitiveness, not to mention the lack of field maintenance and of new facilities. It’s been a rough go for the game in the inner city.

The Corvallis Knights also have longtime roots in the Mid-Willamette Valley. Rural programs are battling, but are fighting economics too, not to mention the need for better facilities and youth coaching. These are underserved areas that used to be bastions of baseball and that ran highly competitive programs.

Our investment focus will be in those areas that are underserved.

In terms of doing, last December, the club was thrilled to partner with Friends of Baseball, alumnus Gerald Bolden, and Randy & Adley Rutschman to host the first annual Friends of Rutsch Youth Baseball Clinic at the Portland Expo Center. It was an invite only, no cost event for youth in the Columbia Corridor.

The purpose of the clinic was to ignite and inspire, and to bring baseball community members together in support of kids and the area. If anything, it created awareness and made for a memorable day for both the campers, instructors, and supporters.

“We are so appreciative of Randy Rutschman and his son Adley for their time, resources and commitment to youth,” said Knights Baseball Club CEO Dan Segel. “They see the need and are focusing their giving efforts at growing the game where it needs it most.

“Simply put, the Rutschman family is full of heart. Their devotion to others is inspiring to us all.

“It was a pleasure creating awareness and building team as part of planning and executing the Friends of Rutsch clinic, which went wonderfully thanks to Randy, Adley, Gerald Bolden, Friends of Baseball and all those that supported the event.

“It was a special moment for those who live in the area and want to help kids.”

The founder and leader of Friends of Rutsch, Randy Rutschman, assembled a veteran team of mentors to assist at the clinic, including former George Fox University head coach Marty Hunter, former Sherwood High School skipper Jon Strohmaier and legendary Oregon High School Hall of Fame coach Dave Gasser. Helpers also included current Lewis & Clark College head coach Matt Kosderka, Lewis & Clark assistant Rob Vance, and Oakland A’s area scout Jim Coffman.

Bringing the eastside, inner-city baseball community together – for the kids – featured current PIL coaches and players as instructors, from Grant High School, Franklin High School, Jefferson High School, McDaniel High School, and Roosevelt High School. The coaches and players were a big part of the clinic’s success and were in place to inspire and be inspired.

For participating in an instructor application process, each of the above high school programs received a financial donation from Knights Baseball Club.

Since the clinic, support of inner-city baseball is ongoing, with Randy Rutschman and Marty Hunter donating their time as mentors to PIL high school coaches and their programs. With Adley’s network, they are also contributing equipment from partners like Nike and Jugs Sports.

Furthermore, Knights Baseball Club board member Tony Fair is now an assistant baseball coach at Jefferson High and working to help build a foundation for a competitive Democrats’ program.

“One of the many benefits of playing the sport of baseball is that it can possibly open avenues to furthering your education,” said Knights Baseball Club board member Tony Fair.  “I am living proof of that.

“Growing up in NE Portland, playing youth baseball at Peninsula Park was such a great experience for me. My friends and I loved it. Back then, youth baseball in the inner city was thriving. The community was involved. We had big-time sponsors throughout the league, like Hoffman Construction, and there was parity.”

“We plan on building up baseball again, with community involvement and a renewed commitment to our youth through the love of the game.”

To learn more, click here to check out the video we produced to capture the Friends of Rutsch experience and vision.

Prior to the clinic, which starred MLB catcher Adley Rutschman of the Orioles and other pro prospects like Mick Abel and Tristan Garnett of the Phillies, Dylan MacLean of the Rangers and Paul Wilson of the Tigers, Knights Baseball Club sponsored and launched a 10u team from North Portland made-up primarily of Black kids.

Last spring, they played an independent schedule and thanks to teammates like DeMarini and Ole Athletics, and Knights Baseball Club board members, the kids got to experience baseball like suburban kids might, with the latest equipment, cool swag, some travel, and a couple indoor practice sessions thanks to Jerry Garnett at DeMarini.

The team was named the Monarchs (pictured) and not only did it drive player interest, it brought families together at ball fields, which was one of the many highlights of the season.

“Our work with the Monarchs was a true effort in supporting the spirit of community through baseball,” said Gerald Bolden. “Confronting the barriers of high costs, and gentrification to keep these players together, connecting generations of Black baseball players, and inspiring new players to want to join the team were just some of the impacts of this effort.

“All of the support from our partners restored the parents’ belief in the larger baseball community as they came together to support the youth.

“The Monarchs are the pioneers of what is possible for inner-city scholar-athletes.”

Doing something can lead to more doing…

This ignitor experiment paid off in more area kids wanting to sign-up and an incubator league being created in 2024 by Hopscotch Foundation that will play ball in the summer months at Jefferson High School. Demand creation at work, as the Albina Baseball/Softball League will be launched this June.

As far as rural giving, the Knights Mid-Valley investments in 2023 were focused on Albany, Lebanon, and Philomath. The club entrusted area high school head coaches Brad Kidd (South Albany), Jeff Stolsig (Lebanon) and Levi Webber (Philomath) to better their youth programs through additional equipment purchases and strategic field enhancements made possible through Knights Baseball Club gifts.

“The Corvallis Knights have been amazing baseball ambassadors for decades,” said Lebanon High School head baseball coach Jeff Stolsig. “Their organization has impacted thousands of people literally world-wide.

“They have been particularly impactful in the Willamette Valley over the last 17 years. Not only do they provide great entertainment, but their people are also role models for our young kids, and they have invested here locally in the smaller communities.

“We received a generous grant from the Knights, which was used to purchase pitching machines and balls that have been used by our program to provide a safer and more fun experience for our youth players. Assistance like this has helped improve participation for many Lebanon kids.

“We are grateful to the Knights for their commitment to serving people.”

For the upcoming spring, the Knights are sponsoring several youth baseball teams and leagues, and hosting an MLB Pitch, Hit & Run event.

Since 2023, Knights Baseball Club has contributed nearly $100,000 in total to a range of youth baseball organizations.

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