Two area charities are just as thrilled as the lawmakers themselves that the 44th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game returns to RFK Stadium tonight. Because the game is now being played closer to the Capitol and at a bigger venue, it is expected to raise more funds than ever for the Washington Literacy Council and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington.
Each year, the majority of the game’s proceeds, totaling approximately $100,000, are donated to those two charities, benefiting adults and children in Washington, D.C.
“The Congressional baseball game used to benefit the Children’s Hospital, but [Democratic manager and Minnesota Rep. Martin] Sabo became aware of the WLC and that the money they received could make a bigger impact for them,” said Tim Johnson, spokesman for the GOP squad’s manager, Rep. Mike Oxley (Ohio).
Sabo spokesman Michael Earlandson echoed that sentiment, saying that the managers were looking for a smaller charity to help. “Through visiting with some folks, we found that the Washington Literacy Council was a good group,” Earlandson explained. “It was really a D.C.-based organization that was surviving on less than $50,000 a year.”
By relocating the game, organizers now expect to be able to do even more for the charities than in recent years.
“One of our great hopes in moving the game is to increase the amount of money raised,” Johnson said. “We have had commitments from three new sponsors.”
In addition to more sponsors, Earlandson expects more attendees. “Our crowd size is likely to double; we could see as many as 10,000 fans, which would certainly set a record. It’s fair to say that the game is likely to be the biggest in history.”
Plus, Earlandson, said, “going out to Bowie [Md.] is a pretty good hike, you’re forced to leave a lot earlier. There’s extra excitement in the air because it is in the backyard of the Capitol.”
Earlandson said his boss is proud of the work that has been done to raise money for the groups. “Sabo and Oxley have taken the Congressional baseball game to a higher level as a charitable event that benefits the community.”
When asked why they chose a local charity, Johnson said that “Members, who work in Washington four or five days a week, sometimes more, have a desire to give back to the community. This is a way they can do something to benefit the people of D.C.”
The Washington Literacy Council is dedicated to helping adults improve their reading abilities. Through past donations from the baseball game, the group has been able to refine its teaching methods, allowing it to help more people at a lower cost.
“We’re grateful because the funding for adult literacy programs is not that consistent,” explained WLC Executive Director Liz Liptak. “It’s been a great source over the years. We used it to cover our operation expenses and teach basic literacy to adults in Washington, D.C.”
Liptak said WLC’s funding level has “gone up over the years,” due largely to the money received from the baseball game. “This past year we got about $70,000” from the game, Liptak said. “It is a significant portion of our budget.”
In addition to funding basic upkeep for the organization, the money has aided the WLC in developing a curriculum that better helps its students learn to read.
“What sets us apart is that we have made use of the research ... and have adopted a more structured curriculum,” Liptak explained. It is not enough just to teach their students phonics. “People who struggle with reading need more repetition. They don’t pick up the phonics that easily. We came up with this to better help people.”
Liptak is also excited by the game’s return to RFK. “We were delighted to hear that the venue has moved because it will attract more sponsors,” Liptak said, adding that the WLC already has plans to put the money to good use. “We want to work on upgrading our training for tutors [and] upgrade our computer work stations.”
Another beneficiary of the baseball game is the Boys and Girls Club. In the past two years, the Metropolitan Police branches of that group have received $20,000 per year.
“We serve as a catalyst for youths to have a safe place in the summer and after school to come in and get some education, meet friends and join sports teams,” said Tanzi West, the club’s director of communications.
Although Johnson said that one of the reasons for giving to the Boys and Girls Club was to “support youth baseball here in D.C.,” West stressed that the organization provides more than athletic facilities for the city’s youth.
“Our mission is to help boys and girls with an emphasis on at-risk youth. ... We’re more than just sports, we offer education and character building, arts programming, health and fitness, and character and leadership-building skills.”