We all know that baseball is America’s pastime and I am lucky enough to work for the Kalamazoo Growlers, a team of college-aged players who play in the Northwoods League over the summer. In all, 20 teams play in the league and are drawn from all over the upper Midwest USA – Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota – plus Ontario, Canada. We work our players hard; there are 72 games over 77 days and the Growlers are one of the most easterly teams – so there is a lot of travel involved too.
All the hard work both on and off the field is certainly worth it. Over 180 of our players have been drafted into Major League Baseball and the experience for fans and the community is second to none. In fact, our league draws more fans than any other summer collegiate baseball league. With such local support, the Growlers have a special relationship with our fans and community; something we are always looking to build on.
Valuable support from MANN+HUMMEL
MANN+HUMMEL has recently become one of our Founding Partners. The company initially wanted to increase employee recognition and so, as a supporter of the team, their employees could participate by sitting in the bullpen with our pitchers, catching foul balls, or enjoying the hospitality in our home plate club area. However, MANN+HUMMEL also wanted to take their support further and so, together, we have created a community outreach program based on their corporate values – MANN+HUMMEL FILTER value days.
Turning FILTER values into fun days
This season, the Kalamazoo Growlers are hosting six events, each themed around a FILTER value – focus, integrity, leadership, teamwork, excellence, and respect. We wanted to teach kids more of the soft skills that they need in life – understanding different points of view, being considerate to others, focusing and achieving life goals. With MANN+HUMMEL’s FILTER value days, we offer kids of all ages, but focusing on 8 to 12 year olds, a free, additional experience while they are here watching a baseball game.
The Focus FILTER value day was held when our home game attracted a lot of field trips from local schools. We handed out scavenger hunt cards which centered around the stands of local employers exhibiting at a small expo we organized next to the game. The kids were encouraged to visit the stands to collected stamps on the card. At the same time, employers could highlight the skills needed to get jobs with their organizations and explain how to achieve them. The reaction from everyone was very positive. The kids enjoyed the competition element while the exhibitors reported how engaged everyone was.
As the season progresses, a lot of summer camp groups come to watch our games. If you have ever been to a minor league baseball game, you know that there are short 90 second breaks between innings where we usually play music, make announcements, or perform on-field promotions. On the “Teamwork” FILTER value day, these breaks became very interactive. We got members of the different groups attending to work as a team to play games, race, and compete against each other. However, we mixed it up a bit as no one participated with anyone they knew – everyone was in a team with total strangers. A true teamwork effort was needed to succeed.
Plans for the future
For next season, we want to grow participation rates by involving community and sports figures in the program. The Kalamazoo Growlers are grateful to MANN+HUMMEL for their support so far, which allows us to achieve our community outreach goals. We look forward to working closely with the MANN+HUMMEL team to build on our joint success for many years to come.