First Hit-a-thon sets bar high for baseball fundraising efforts
Of all the days to have a light breeze, the Eudora High baseball team got stuck with this one.
Last Saturday, as more than 50 Cardinals took the field for the first-ever team fundraiser, the temperature gauge registered in the high 40s and the wind blew ever-so-lightly to right field. The conditions were decent for the ballplayers hoping to remain warm but they did very little to help with the fund-raiser itself.
"I was hoping to get a little more wind," EHS sophomore Joel Lauer said. "But you make do with what you have. I really just like that we're having fun and raising money at the same time. This is a lot more fun than selling something or doing a car wash."
Saturday's objective, under the watchful eye of first-year head coach Shaun Edmondson, was to litter the EHS field with well-hit, hard-driven baseballs. From noon until a little after 2 p.m., the Cardinals, dressed in full uniform, took pitch after pitch from Edmondson and other coaches, who stood behind a protective L-screen roughly 30 feet from home plate, attempting to groove each pitch into the perfect spot for each hitter.
The Cardinals hit the batting cage by class, with the seniors leading off, followed by the juniors, sophomores and freshmen. Team managers recorded the farthest hit for each player, and that number was recorded for the people who pledged money for each foot. Most players received pledges from parents, aunts, uncles and family friends. The values ranged anywhere from $.05 to $.50 per foot. The light wind saved most of them a fistful of dollars.
"I wasn't here the whole time but I heard a few parents grumbling in the stands about how the kids weren't costing them enough money," said EHS assistant principal and baseball parent Ron Abel. "Maybe they weren't adding it up on their calculators, but I don't think there were too many concerns. The community support for this has been great, and I think it's a fantastic fundraiser. The kids don't have to invest too much time and they get a good amount of money out of it."
In addition to raising money for the team, the players saw Saturday's fundraiser as an opportunity to collect an early dose of team bonding.
"This brings us together and makes us more team-oriented," EHS junior Bryan Dudley said. "That's only going to help us in the long run."
Dudley's farthest hit of the day measured 240 feet. After stepping it off - 115 feet from home plate to the edge of the infield and another 125 feet from there - Dudley returned to the dugout, slightly disappointed by the number but armed with the knowledge that his swing delivered.
Lauer crushed the longest ball of the day, smashing a deep drive to center field that settled 354 feet from home plate. With every ball hit in the air, regardless of how far it actually traveled, the players released a chorus of oohs and ahhs, a tell-tale sign that they were enjoying the day.
"It's fun," sophomore Drew Noble said. "Everybody's hoping to hit it as far as they can so we just go up there and swing. A little wind doesn't hurt."
Although he, too, encouraged his players to swing with all their might, Edmondson made sure to emphasize that the techniques used on Saturday would not fly during the season.
"I told them this isn't at all how we're actually going to hit," Edmondson said.
Edmondson said he expected the hit-a-thon to raise close to $10,000. More than $4,000 came by way of flat donations from EHS supporters. The rest will filter in throughout the next week or so as the line drives and fly balls turn into dollars.
In all, the players cranked out 11,623 feet worth of base hits. That's 2.2 miles. At an average pledge rate of $.10 per foot, and an average of four pledges per player, that's more than $4,600.
"I did this with my summer team and it went great," said Edmondson, who also coaches the American Legion Lawrence Raiders in the summer. "The kids liked it and we raised a lot of money. You always need bats and stuff like that, but long-term, I'd really like to get one of those big scoreboards. I think that would look great."