America’s pastime teaching American values and helping American communities – that’s the vision Jeff Potter has made a reality, and it’s coming to the Tri County area.
The Potter Baseball Tour will come through Morgantown, Elverson and Honey Brook this Thursday through Sunday. The group will work with the Twin Valley Food Pantry, a local food bank, raising food, renovating the pantry’s facilities and raising money through a car wash.
“Once you get into Potter, you don’t leave because the mission and the program is so important, and truly something we need more of in communities across the nation,” said Meredith Zolty, the Twin Valley tour director.
The tour is a youth baseball organization that takes 13- to 15-year-old players from the mid-Atlantic region on three week tours focused on community service and the spirit of the sport. The team plays exhibition games against local teams, runs free clinics for little leagues, completes service projects and fosters a sense of community.
Potter, the author of “Whatever Happened to Baseball?” was drafted out of high school by the Detroit Tigers in 1972, but lost his chance at major league play when he broke his wrist. His love of baseball never faded, though, and now he’s trying to bring back the fun of a game he says has become too focused on politics and winning.
At the same time, he’s using baseball as a vehicle for bringing communities together, instilling important values in his team along the way.
Elverson native David Allen, 14, was part of the first tour of the summer. He said the team ran a clinic for blind youth, played soccer blindfolded, visited the memorial in Shanksville, built a scoreboard for a farm team in Frederick, Md., among other experiences. Throughout the tour, the team raised money for Jamie Purper, a 13-year-old Maryland girl who had brain cancer (she has since gone into remission after two surgeries and six weeks of chemotherapy).
“The experience with the kids was cool, because some of them didn’t know how to play baseball,” Allen said of the clinic. “It was fun to teach them, because they still enjoyed it even though they may not have been as good as some others.”
“That’s the message Coach Potter is trying to project out there, is let’s bring baseball back to its foundation,” Zolty said. “And you do that through the up-and-coming youth.”
“It was good for him to get out and experience what it is to do community service,” said James Allen, David’s father and the Vice President of Baseball for Twin Valley Little League. He added that the experience has also taught his son interpersonal, leadership and planning skills.
He’s even noticed little differences in his son in terms of courtesy, such as standing up when introducing himself to others, removing his hat at dinner and doing chores without hesitation.
“It’s different when it comes from somebody else,” the elder Allen said with a laugh. “Mom and dad repeat it and repeat it, and then when you hear it from somebody different, it reinforces it and it sticks, maybe.”
The second tour of the summer, which began last Monday, kicks off the Twin Valley leg with a meet and greet at Aroma’s Coffee and Bagels in Elverson at 8 a.m. Thursday. From there, the boys will be bussed to Conestoga Mennonite Church, the home of Twin Valley Food Pantry, at 10, when they will begin renovations and the food drive.
Thursday afternoon, the team will host a baseball clinic from 4 to 6 p.m. at James Umble Memorial Park in Honey Brook, followed by an adults vs. Potter boys slow pitch softball game at 6:30.
The team will finish work on the food pantry and host the car wash at Sonic on Friday. Friday night, the Potter team and the Twin Valley Little League will be honored at the Reading Fightin’ Phils game. Events are planned in Allentown and at the United Sports Training Center in Downingtown Saturday and Sunday before the team moves on to Virginia Monday.
Joey Frey, a Twin Valley Food Pantry volunteer, said she is excited to work with the Potter Tour, and that the pantry will be accepting donations as part of the food drive during normal office hours, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In addition to food, the pantry also takes pet food, baby food and hygiene products.
“In the end, we have a fantastic community, and it’s vehicles like this that bring the community together but also show other communities out there what is possible,” Zolty said.