Go to a minor league baseball stadium on any given night, and you'll find a few subsets of people in the crowd who, like the players, are there simply out of their love of the game — the gameday staff members who make the operations run, and the professional scouts who dot the seats all summer.
In Frederick, where the Orioles' Carolina League affiliate plays, the intersection of those two groups led to a unique connection for a Hall of Fame scout, John Tumminia, and Bridget McCabe, the Keys' director of marketing.
The two will be part of a group that goes to British Columbia with a charity that Tumminia has built up through sheer force of will, Baseball Miracles, which goes to disadvantaged areas around the world to teach baseball and help build communities with the game.
McCabe, who also went with the group on a mission to South Africa in 2014 and provided support from the homefront on trips to Kenya and Honduras, will go with a group of coaches and instructors to Seabird Island, a developing area east of Vancouver. She spoke recently about the group's mission, how she got involved, and how the future Orioles and the Keys have been supportive along the way.
Baseball Miracles seems to pull from all over the game. How did you and John get connected for this?
Before I worked down here with the Keys, I worked in Hudson Valley. One day, he came into the press box wearing a Hudson Valley Renegades pullover. I said, "Hey, I used to work for them." He mentioned that maybe I knew his daughter. I was thinking it was going to be an intern. I asked, "Who's your daughter?" He said, "Tyler Tumminia." The marketing director for the ownership group — of course I know who she is. That's kind of how we met, and we actually had a lot in common. I went to the same high school as his daughter. He said that I kind of reminded him a little bit of her, and both him and my parents are from Brooklyn around the same area. We knew the same people. It was a small world. He lives across the river from me in New York. We had a lot in common, and we would chat every time he came into town — which is pretty often. I think he likes it here.
And when did he start explaining his Baseball Miracles project to you?
He had mentioned it to me probably once we started knowing each other, but he didn't ask me if I wanted to be a part of it right off the bat. He kind of waited until 2014, in November, that we went to South Africa. He had asked me probably in April or May of 2014 if I wanted to be part of the group as a coordinator/instructor with the softball program. I definitely jumped at the opportunity to be part of it — even just working here with the Keys, my favorite part is getting to work with the community on the community relations side, working with the different organizations and charities, helping them raise money in unique ways through the game of baseball.
You're taking this trip during the season, so the Keys are obviously supportive. But what about the Orioles organization and the Keys stands out in terms of supporting you and the program?
I've gotten some equipment from the players — they're pretty happy to donate old equipment that they don't need anymore. That's really great. I know that even some of the other teams, like the Winston-Salem Dash, they donated a bunch of old BP balls to us. We've had a few equipment drives here. It definitely has helped with getting equipment. As far as the Keys go, they let me have a 50-50 raffle here for Baseball Miracles, and we've done an ad in the Play Bill program. Even just spreading awareness is what we're looking for.
What's the response like when you tell people what you do with the organization?
People are usually pretty interested. Everyone always has questions both about how I got involved, and they're pretty interested in the locations we go to. And pretty much everyone is willing to help. That's usually the second question, "How can I get involved? How can I help out?" That's been awesome and I feel like that's part of the reason the program has grown so much in the last few years. There's just so many people who are willing to help and willing to donate. It's awesome to see.
What are you looking forward to most about your trip next week?
I love working with the kids. These kids comes from tough backgrounds. Some of them are extremely poor, and just getting to interact with the kids and see their faces light up when they get a baseball glove for the first time. They get to own it. We leave every kid that we see in the clinic with their own personal glove to keep. So just seeing their faces, that's my favorite part of all these. And not only do we go and teach them baseball skills, but we also bring baseball culture with us, too. We always have a hot dog lunch, with peanuts and Cracker Jacks and Big League Chew and seeds — stuff that these kids have never seen before. In South Africa, the kids were like, "These are seeds. Why are you eating them?" They had no idea what we were doing. They didn't understand the concept of gum. But then they're having bubble-gum blowing contests. That's really the most rewarding part, seeing these kids and seeing how much fun they have. It's stuff that they remember, because the instructors, the places that we go to, they'll send us updates. They'll be out still playing baseball months after we had left. That's a good feeling, leaving that kind of impact on a place, where you think, "I'm just one person. How can I impact that many people?"