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General  | General  | 7/27/2019

PG Cares host first softball game

Blake Dowson     

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Jerry Ford had to pause a couple times to collect himself as he described what this weekend meant to him, to the company he founded more than 25 years ago, and to the kids in the underserved communities he wishes to help.

Perfect Game Cares, a wing of Perfect Game that has ambitious goals to help serve its community through a number of programs, hosted its inaugural celebrity softball game on Saturday, with former MLB All-Stars like Trevor Hoffman, Bo Jackson, and Luis Gonzalez in attendance. Those three, as well as a large number of other baseball and local celebrities, hosted a kids camp Saturday morning before playing in the softball game. Almost 500 kids had the opportunity to interact with the stars.

“Many years ago, we started a non-profit organization basically to raise money for different children’s causes,” Ford said. “Over the years, we have raised over $3 million for things like pediatric cancer, autism awareness, club foot, children’s hospitals, boys and girls clubs. It dawned on us after a while that maybe there’s more we can do for underprivileged kids…We want people like the people who are here today to go into elementary schools and talk to the kids and inspire the kids.”

That was the sentiment coming from each and every celebrity in attendance. When asked why they came to Iowa from places like California and Florida to play in a softball game, they each talked about kids.

“I’m in the youth space out in California,” Dmitri Young, a former MLB All-Star, said. “It’s all about the next generation. We have a lot of people out there teaching the wrong things to the young players. I’d like to help teach kids how to learn the right way.”

Hoffman, a Hall of Fame player and the Honorary Chairman for the Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego, said it was Ford’s passion that made him show up in Cedar Rapids for the first time since he played for the Cedar Rapids Reds, way back in his minor league days.

“It’s Jerry,” Hoffman said. “Not only has passion for baseball, but his passion for kids. We’re lucky to be here to represent Perfect Game and lucky to be here to represent Perfect Game Cares. We’re going to do all we can to make this thing grow and ultimately have an impact in a lot of different places.”

The first-year event that saw almost 500 kids show up for the camp in the morning saw a packed stadium for the softball game, many of which were kids, as well.

The kids got to take ground ball lessons from Junior Spivey at second base, learned how to approach a rolling ball in center field from Bo Jackson, and how to drive their legs when they run from Tim Dwight.

Jackson said he remembered being those kids at one point, and that is his motivating factor to continue to give his time and effort toward helping kids.

“We were those kids at one point in time. Somebody cared about us enough to show us the right way,” Jackson said. “For us, who have been to the top of that ladder, it’s always good to give back. It’s always good to put some sunshine in someone’s cloud. To be here with the kids and show them different things, and to have them go home and brag to their parents that, ‘Hey, we spent the weekend with so-and-so. And he or she told us how to do this right.’

“Perfect Game has created a niche here where a lot of kids have come up through their program the right way and have made it way farther than they probably expected to make it.”

Tom Gordon, otherwise known as Flash Gordon during his 21-year career for a number of teams across Major League Baseball, has had a son, Nick Gordon, go through the Perfect Game system. Nick is now playing Triple-A baseball. His other son, Dee, plays for the Seattle Mariners.

Flash has seen the necessity of encouraging kids through the experiences of his own children, and the ones around them.

“It’s always great to encourage the kids. I was one of those kids myself, coming from a small town and not knowing where I would go next,” Gordon said. “It was my mom, my dad, good people in my community that helped me realize the importance of just continuing to have faith. The program we are connected with here, Perfect Game Cares, has not only rejuvenated me, because I not only love baseball, I love how our community comes together.

"We see each other at events, whether it’s baseball, anything that deals with kids, anything that gives them an opportunity to succeed. That’s what I’m trying to do, and I know that’s exactly what Perfect Game is doing.”