Interview: How Baseball Fundraising Refurbished a Batting Cage Facility
Clearwater High School in Clearwater, Florida is raising funds to fix up their baseball team’s facility which was built 17 years ago, in memory of a student, Ricky Teal, who passed away in a car accident his Junior year. Ricky had often remarked “I sure hope we can have batting cages or somewhere to practice at the school by the time I graduate.”
Clearwater’s fundraiser has been extremely successful so we called Jordan Banks, the baseball coach and fundraiser organizer, to learn more about their story and how it may be able to help other EdCo teams.
EdCo: Can you tell us more about Ricky Teal and what happened 17 years ago?
Jordan: Ricky was a young, energetic kid that brought a smile everyday not only to himself but to the people around him. He was one of those individuals in life that you hope you would get to meet. He cared about his sport, school, family, the people he was around, and his community.
[The day of the accident], he was on his way to practice with his brother in the vehicle. They swerved in the road to avoid a car that was coming and then they tried to maneuver again to get back into his lane but their speed was a little too fast. The car hit a tree and Ricky was ejected from the vehicle. His brother, Reed, had a severe concussion and a couple of broken bones. Ricky did not survive that accident.
EdCo: After he passed, was there an attempt to fundraise in his memory?
Jordan: Yes. Once that tragic accident happened, his family, along with other community members, pitched in together to start a memorial in his name which was going to be new batting cages for the baseball team. That season, they were coming off of a State Semi Finals appearance. That was Ricky’s Junior year. So, what would have been his Senior year, it was dedicated to him. They decided to do this, to ask family members and community to pitch in money and build a batting facility on the high school property that would be in his name.
EdCo: Did that come to pass?
Jordan: Yes. That was built. The area they had, they built two nice cages and a roofed building in the area. Over the years, it began to see less use by the baseball program. The school made a transition to playing our games at Jack Russell Memorial Stadium. That facility also has cages. So the maintenance and upkeep of Ricky’s Memorial began to decline.
This is my second year involved with Clearwater High School and as head coach, I reached out to Reed to see if he was interested in teaming up to try to get that cage fixed. And what’s funny is, I didn’t know why the cages were there until I reached out. I was thinking, “I’m the baseball coach and I want to revive something for my team, as well as the community so they could play baseball and have somewhere to come and train.” Then I started to hear, “Hey that’s dedicated to Ricky.” I finally had the pleasure of meeting Reed and he gave me the in-depth story, what was going on, why the cages came to fruition. That was the craziest thing and one of the most humbling experiences, to hear what that young man truly meant to his family and community.
EdCo: What was your thought process after you decided to have a fundraiser?
Jordan: At first, I really wanted to do this after I found out what it was – I come from a small town in Ohio. I’m very close with my family. My friends have been around me and coaches, mentors, teachers too.There’s something about community to me. It’s in my blood. It’s something I want to be a part of and that I love. You know, to see individuals give up their time to be selfless and make a difference for someone other than themselves.
When I started piecing all of this together and what I wanted to get done, I really just – in the back of my mind, everything said, “Know your roots. And know where you come from and try to instill that here and change a culture around the area.” There is community here and it’s something I want to make my own and give it that home feeling for me and I want my kids to experience the benefits of having people around that I had growing up.
EdCo: That’s an incredible motivation. How do you decide you were going to raise money?
Jordan: I reached out to my administrator at the school and took some inquiries about expenses. First and foremost, I reached out to the Teal family and laid everything out that I had planned. I knew how devastating of a thing that is, it is an unimaginable situation, and I wanted to make sure they understood what my initiative and goals were: to bring bring this complex in memory of a kid who, I think, a lot of my kids and athletes now should be able to look up to and say, “This is one of those kids who could have made it. He had the drive, the passion to be great.” I wanted our kids to meet this image of what this young man would have been without that accident.
EdCo: How did you reach out to ask for donations? Did you have bake sales or events?
Jordan: We set up an online fundraising page and put out the story of what was going on. It was the 17th year anniversary of the accident the Friday before I sent out the page so it was something people still to this day reflect on. I talked to a lot of teachers and people who donated who remember the day like it was yesterday. We wanted to get it out there because it was on people’s minds.
EdCo: Was the entirety of your strategy sending the page to people in your community, and that was that? Or were there in-person events that helped to popularize it?
Jordan: Reed was a huge component in getting the word out because he’s a big part of the community. He has a landscaping company, Imperial Land Care. Even people that played with Ricky are still involved in the community so we blasted the message on Reed’s social media and I did so too. We actually had donations from former teachers and family members to help the cause. And also when it got out we did a few interviews on Channel 8 News, ABC Action News, and Channel 10.
EdCo How did they hear about your story?
Jordan: Word of mouth.
EdCo They reached out to you?
Jordan: Yes. They reached out to us and wanted to do an interview with Reed and myself.
EdCo: How did the interviews go?
Jordan: Great. We showed them the facility and told the story about why we were doing what we were doing, why it meant so much. Especially with Reed being at the accident and losing a brother, someone to look up to, who he played with, it was a deeper reason to be involved. For me, hearing this story and imagining that situation, it was humbling to know that we are doing something to better the youth’s sports environment, to remember a guy who stood for everything that I want my kids and student athletes to stand for.
EdCo: During the first day, you raised over $1,000. That is a great success. Was that that purely off of the enthusiasm of the community?
Jordan: What’s funny about that is, I was texting Reed the night we set up and we were trying to set a number. We didn’t want to come out and say, “Hey, we need $20,000.” We wanted to be small. Whatever we got from whoever we got would help. We would make it work that way. So, that night I was texting Reed and laughing and joking and saying, “Let’s set our first goal for $6,000.” It was on a Thursday night and I woke up Friday morning and we had already raised $1,200. Just overnight.
EdCo: That’s amazing.
Jordan: Fast forward a week or so and we’re at four or five grand. That’s when the news stations came in – people wanted to talk and help. We kept bumping the goal. Let’s keep the train rolling. The thing we set all our energy into was, this was already going to be a good thing, it was a bright light on what we wanted Ricky’s memories to mean, and also we wanted to add to it. We wanted to expand his memory. If he was around now with the technology and the things you can be involved with in baseball, what would this place be like then?
EdCo: You must have received interesting reactions from people who remember him, for them to see a new fundraiser celebrating him. What were some reactions you got from donors?
Jordan: It was one of those things that gives you chills on the back of your neck when thinking about how much support the community gives. You always expect people to have negative reactions. Or something negative to say. There are a few negative Facebook posts but you can’t control social media. We can’t control what they post. We’re not looking at why the cages got so bad. We’re looking at the positives, the bright side, what’s coming next. And that’s how we drove the program. We’re not going to dwell on something that got us to this point. We’re going to say “how do we fix it?”
EdCo: You know in your heart that you’re doing it for the right reasons.
EdCo: Do you have plans or strategies to raise the remaining $2,500?
Jordan: We set the goal, the $15,000, as a cap. We made a request to pull the funds. We pulled $11,477. We are in the process now of taking bids to get the cage started. The donation page is open for those who maybe haven’t seen the message and still want to reach out and be a part of this. Everything we do with this money is going back to this complex that the Clearwater community and baseball organizations can use so we can have better baseball in the area and provide these kids with somewhere to go and increase their skills and take pride in their skills. The money is a great goal, but now we’re starting the process of looking at bids to build the facility.
EdCo: You succeeded in a big way. I didn’t realize you had increased the goal little by little. That’s all the better.
EdCo: When do you expect the cages to be built?
Jordan: The structure is already great. We’re looking to get it cleaned and repainted. We are shooting for a reopening at the end of this month, right before our season begins. We’re taking in the process of how to get the best quote to make sure it’s done right, how it’s meant to be.
EdCo: Your story is unique but can you tell me general advice that teachers reading this can use?
Jordan: Reach out. It’s one of those things where the people are there and the community is there and, if you have something on your mind, find a source and ask questions. Don’t be afraid. A lot of people shy away from hard work. Growing up, I was blessed to have both parents in my household and they were very strong and supportive. I learned that hard work trumps everything. Be the person willing to go out and get what you want instead of waiting back. My parents instilled that in me and I stress it to my kids. And my student-athletes now. Go get it. Don’t be afraid. Go achieve your dream.
EdCo: Thank you, Jordan. Those are all the questions I have for you.
Jordan: I appreciate you, sir.
To donate to the Clearwater fundraiser, click here.