“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”- Winston Churchill
*If you do not want to read the full story and want to find out how you can help keep the spirit of La Salle Baseball alive, please scroll to the bottom of this article or head to https://fundly.com/la-salle-baseball-forever*
September 29th, 2020. It was an ordinary Tuesday and myself and my roommates were working from home in the midst of the pandemic. During the day, we typically kept to ourselves as we powered through our busy workdays. But September 29th, 2020 was different.
I was in a meeting with my team at work when I was startled by a rapid knock on my door. My roommate, Joe, had never done that before so I knew something was wrong immediately. When he came in, it looked like something terrible had happened and my first thought was that someone close to us had passed. While that, fortunately, was not the case, the only thing that meant more to us than a friend or family had been taken from us:
BREAKING: La Salle athletics released a plan today to trim varsity sports from to 25 to 18 — @LaSalleBase is part of those cuts. The Explorers made two NCAA tourney appearances in program history — 1964 and 1985. Tough day for the #LaSalle baseball family.
— Kendall Rogers (@KendallRogers) September 29, 2020
I share my personal experience in finding out this news and the pain Joe and I felt to highlight the fact that our feelings paled in comparison to the players, coaches, and families that had no prior knowledge that the place they had committed to call home for four years had been taken away from them. Joe and I are alumni of La Salle baseball that graduated in 2016, and even as alumni it felt like our hearts had been ripped out. For the players, coaches, and families of the 2021 La Salle Explorers? I cannot even fathom the pain they went through.
Why was this news so incredibly painful for so many people? That’s because La Salle baseball is different. From the start of the #SaveLaSalleBASE campaign, our goal was to make people understand that La Salle Baseball was much more than just baseball. For Joe, myself, all of our teammates, and anyone who ever put on the Blue and Gold, La Salle baseball was truly a part of our identity.
When the news came out, the first thing we did was try to figure out a way to save the program. The following day, we hosted a La Salle Baseball community virtual town hall to brainstorm ideas to raise funds and awareness for a cause very close to many people’s hearts. Those ideas helped build what became a national campaign with the help of Dave Portnoy and Barstool Sports, and with that, we continued to show the world why La Salle Baseball was more than worth saving.
Over the next few months leading up to the season, we continued to raise funds, started a 501(c)3 foundation, the La Salle Legends Foundation, and tried to instill hope in the team that there was still something to play for in what ended up being the final season in La Salle baseball history.
The La Salle Legends Foundation: Honoring the Past, By Building The Future.
If you are interested in finding out more, please email me at email@example.com.
— James Santore (@JamesSantore) December 10, 2020
And what ended up happening in that final season? The gutsy Explorers battled their hearts out and earned the right to be known as the winningest team in La Salle’s history. 32 wins for a team that literally everyone, including the own school that they represented, counted out. The 2021 La Salle Explorers were not only successful on the field, but they served as an inspiration to young baseball players everywhere and earned the respect of the entirety of the baseball community.
32 WINS! @LaSalleBase has broken the school record for wins set in 1985.
— James Santore (@JamesSantore) May 16, 2021
We ended up raising over $600,000 of pledges for the cause. $600,000 for a small college baseball program in North Philadelphia. While that ended up falling short of the exorbitant number that was necessary to save the program, I believe that the experience of the past year will prove invaluable for every single person involved.
The vast majority of players were able to parlay their success on the field to find new homes at bigger and better schools, and while we may not have Explorers baseball to look forward to in the Spring of 2022, the lessons learned and the relationships that were forged during this difficult time will last way longer than anything a team could possibly do on a baseball field.
La Salle Baseball is family, and family lasts forever. And in honor of this family that has experienced so much loss over the past year, those of us that were involved in the process would like to keep the memory of the 2021 team and the program as a whole alive. How will we be able to do that? Growing the game of baseball in the name of the Explorers.
Although the $600,000 in pledges (and all GoFundMe money) have been returned, we still have funds from several of the fundraising efforts that we ran during the campaign. Whether that be merchandise sales, events, or other means, we are lucky to have a few thousand dollars to distribute to continue to grow the game of baseball and give funds to those that need it most.
To date, we have given funds to Stand Up 2 Cancer and I am excited to announce that we will be donating $500 to Philadelphia Baseball Training’s “Raise to Ring” Fund and giveback on 10/30. This event will allow PBT athletes to learn the value of giving back to their community at a young age and allow them to share their unique talents & gifts with those who might not have the same opportunities or resources.
But this is just the beginning. We will continue to raise and donate funds to organizations that need it most. That can be other youth/high school/college baseball programs that need funding, charitable causes for those that need it in the baseball community, and everything in between.
Keeping the spirit of La Salle Baseball, and specifically the 2021 team, alive is the least we can do for a program that has given so many baseball players a home to develop into men. If you would like to recommend an organization or cause to donate to, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can’t promise we will be able to donate to every single cause, but we will do our best to do so.
I can’t end this story without thanking everyone that helped keep the hope alive during the past year. Kevin McGowan and Joe Ravert (pictured below) were instrumental in helping to launch this campaign and making sure that we were doing everything in our power to bring this back. Mike McLaughlin, an ’85 alum who I had not had the chance to meet prior to this campaign, was incredibly important to this campaign and I truly do miss our standing 6 AM calls.
To every other alumni and member of the baseball community that supported us, I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. This has been an extremely, extremely difficult year for every single person involved, but the support of the surrounding community made us all realize just how special La Salle Baseball was. While our mission may not have been a success, failure is only temporary.
I can promise you this: I will never, ever stop trying to bring back this program. Because the world needs more La Salle Baseball’s. And the world lost a special group of people on this day last year. We’ll be back. Never. Stop. Exploring.