Adam Grossman '02 and Jared Weinstein '02

Writer: 
November 30, 2004
Adam Grossman '02 and Jaren Weinstein '02

 Finding diamonds in the rough

 

Adam Grossman was a tee-baller when the journey began, a "baseball odyssey," as he calls it. "When I was seven, my dad and I had this idea that we would visit every major league field in the country," says Grossman, a Cleveland native and longtime Indians fan and now special-projects coordinator with the Boston Red Sox. "We loved going to the ballpark--the whole fan environment, the look and feel of the field."

Off they went: to Shea and Wrigley and Fenway, to more than thirty parks and hundreds of games. And, no matter where the seat or the city, baseball was to him as much a place as a game, a country of glistening greens wrapped in spotless brown borders with a symmetry and precision as pleasing to Grossman, the aesthete, as to Grossman, the athlete.

But it was Grossman, the Duke sophomore and public-policy major, who, along with classmate Jared Weinstein, turned a passion for baseball fields into one of the more successful student-led fund-raising initiatives to come out of professor Tony Brown's "Enterprising Leadership" course.

"Tony's class was all about finding your passion, finding what really excites you, and then applying that passion to the community through a social venture," says Weinstein, who was also a public-policy major and is now a special assistant to the chief of staff in the White House. "And my passion, like Adam's, was always baseball--ever since Little League in Alabama," says the Birmingham native. "As I got older, I loved learning about its place in American history. And I started to ask myself, Why is this game, which is so ingrained in the American identity, only being played in wealthy suburbs? I wanted to help change that."

The two decided to try to raise money to purchase equipment for the Durham Bulls Youth Athletic League--bats, gloves, and balls. The plan was a fine one, except that new equipment didn't address the more pressing concerns of a team that played its games on a field full of holes and rocks: If you hit a double, you'd better hit a stand-up double, because if you tried to slide, you were sure to rip your pants and maybe your rear end, too. Or, say you were fielding a grounder and stepped in a hole. You'd twist your ankle, and everybody would score. How to solve the holes and rocks problem, Grossman and Weinstein wondered. The answer, of course, was new fields.

Once they solved the problem of what to do, they had to ask somebody for the money to do it and explain why they needed it, and that process tends to have its snags. Fortunately for the Durham Youth Athletic League, Grossman and Weinstein were natural grant-proposal writers with infectious enthusiasm, capable of bringing together an entire community. Over a three-year period, they raised more than $500,000 from corporate sponsors--Major League Baseball and the Durham Bulls, among others--and a few private donors: their parents.

On May 1, 2004, 500 inner-city girls and boys marched into one of two brand-new, just-like-the-Durham-Bulls-park baseball diamonds, with no rocks or holes but with gleaming new bleachers and Bermuda sod and spacious dugouts and lights for night games and a fence that stretched all the way around the outfield.

The ballparks, located at the intersection of Liberty Street and Hyde Park Avenue, so closely resembled the real Durham Bulls ballpark that Sam, an eight-year-old shortstop on the Black Knights, wondered if they would finish the job, "and put the big bull above the scoreboard. It still needs that, I think."