Adam Pohl has seen crowds large and small descend on minor league baseball stadiums before, but the Bowie Baysox broadcaster was huddled in the concourse at Prince George’s Stadium on Thursday morning when he saw a line that meant he had awoken in the middle of the night and fretted for nothing.
Over 150 children from around the Bowie area were at the park for a Baseball Miracles clinic, the first of two to be held in Maryland this week with a second scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. at Eddie Murray Field in West Baltimore.
It’s a local edition of an international program that sprung from relationships built at minor league stadiums like in Bowie and Frederick, held together by the strong pull of retired Chicago White Sox scout and Baseball Miracles founder John Tumminia, and enhanced locally by some Orioles connections.
“It’s a different kind of approach and different kind of way to build, but that’s the beauty of the whole organization,” said Kyle Bamberger, a former Orioles player development intern and associate scout who was one of the first to sign on with Baseball Miracles. “It’s something you’re easily attached to, and you need that kind of interest.
"It’s not like we’re going out and hiring in any kind of overly strategic way. It’s people that are passionate, that share common interests, and it’s more because of those passing conversations that John has had.”
The clinics in Baltimore and Bowie are just the latest, and are run and supported by volunteers connected to the game in so many ways. This week’s in Maryland were run in an on-field capacity by Philadelphia Phillies scout Alex Agostino, with off-field support coming from Baseball Miracles social media coordinator Sam Hyman.
The mission of bringing baseball around the world is pull enough. The organization’s first mission was to a Native American reservation in South Dakota and Baseball Miracles has also traveled to Ireland, South Africa, Kenya, Honduras, Canada, Argentina and the Phillipines to work with populations Tumminia calls “underserved but deserving.”
With Pohl, that began in Frederick, where he was a broadcaster and assistant general manager with the Keys. He estimates he first met Tumminia 12 years ago when he complimented the Keys on a promotion at the ballpark while in town for coverage. Tumminia had also pulled one-time Keys employees Bridget McCabe and Christine Roy into the fold for Baseball Miracles’ early missions.
“This is a decade in the making, to be honest,” Pohl said. “When I started seeing them start doing these camps domestically — baseball miracles has been more of an international mission in the course of its history.
"All of a sudden, I saw they were going to New Orleans, Kentucky, Albuquerque. I just thought, why not Baltimore? And if they’re doing Baltimore, why don’t we do two and do one for the kids of Prince George’s County?”
For Bamberger, who went to Towson and spent four years with the Orioles organization before joining the Cleveland Indians organization in December, running a clinic where he had his first job in baseball was “kind of a full-circle experience.”
“Not that any other project is less special, but this community has … definitely been kind of unique and special for that specific reason,” Bamberger said.
The clinics aren’t just for baseball purposes, though players were put through their paces Thursday with hitting, fielding, conditioning, and throwing drills. Baysox players Alex Wells, Brian Gonzalez and Steven Klimek helped run stations as well. But each young player also receives a baseball glove, a shirt, a baseball and lunch at the clinics. Thursday’s group got tickets to the Baysox game. Those who participate Friday will get tickets to see the Orioles face the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards.
With this summer mission completed this week, the organization still hopes to bring the clinics to Ghana this year. Each future trip, though, is buoyed by the success of the preceding one.
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“The goal is to keep working at it being more sustainable, bringing in more volunteers, more consistent equipment donations,” Bamberger said. “We’re in the growing stages. I think we’re in the middle of it and going in the right direction, but we always encourage more people to get involved. … We’ve got the baseball, community service, just giving back and helping others, there’s a place in Baseball Miracles for people from a lot of different backgrounds.”