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Play Ball! There was nothing quite like it. The crack of the bat. The sweet smell of fresh cut grass. The warm sun shining down on your face. Everything seemed simpler then. There was no better way to spend a day. Neighborhood pickup games. Playing from sunrise to sunset. No worries, only wonder. It truly was the age of innocence. SUNDAY, MAY 17, 2009





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Today, our national pastime is getting passed over.



and softball are taking second billing to other sports and activities. Most often, it’s simply because there aren’t enough ballparks. With each generation, interest in playing ball as a childhood sport is waning. There was a time when youth worried about a high and inside fastball. But times have changed. Today, they face much greater challenges. Now, more than ever, our youth need places to play.

Dreams. Lifelong baseball fan Bob Hellman knows the importance of baseball on impressionable youth. As the founder and chairman of the board of a successful marketing agency, many of his most important business lessons came not in the boardroom, but on the ball field. He watched with

concern as our nation’s diamonds began disappearing, and he dreamed of a way to give back to the game that has given him so much.

Teams. Hellman remembers in his youth of having to ride his bike to other parts of town to play ball. So he was especially excited when the opportunity arose to build a showcase ball field at the elementary school near his childhood home in east Waterloo. Hellman and his family committed a $90,000 gift toward the development of a neighborhood ballpark for area teams. He and his agency’s staff teamed with the school, city, donors and area citizens to make the dream a reality.

Opportunities. Hellman Field hit a home run with the community. Hellman realized that if he and other community-minded citizens could

build a ballpark here, then a ballpark could be built anywhere there is a need. All it takes is teamwork. In 2008, he founded Build Our Ballpark, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that provides assistance to improve existing ballparks or build brand new ones

in communities across our nation.

The Mission. Build Our Ballpark’s mission is to improve the lives of kids by providing them with the opportunity to play baseball and

softball which, through teamwork, strengthens character, builds pride and teaches skills for life. We will do this by helping ensure they have a quality place to play by providing assistance and rallying the support needed to build new ballparks and/or improve existing ballparks. Our goal is to rebuild passion for America’s pastime – one field at a time.

Local Vision. Build Our Ballpark was born in the Cedar Valley, and is committed to providing our area with quality, safe fields that encourage our children to play. This, in turn, will bridge our communities, and stimulate economic growth by having the type of facilities that allow us to attract and host state, regional and national youth baseball and softball tournaments.O

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Ballparks Cover All the Bases As our youth’s interest wanes, so do the benefits that come with the game.

Kids build critical life skills. Ballparks are places where kids learn how to interact with others, to listen, to work together and support each other, and how what they do is going to affect the people around them – lessons they’ll use in everyday life.

Neighborhoods build pride. Building ballparks brings people together and provides a recognizable landmark for a neighborhood.

The nation preserves its rich heritage.

It is through the past that we understand who we are. We lose a part of ourselves when youth don’t have the opportunity to play the quintessential all-American sport.

It’s fun for everyone. Most importantly, playing ball is just plain fun.

“When they start the game, they don’t yell, ‘Work ball.’ They say, ‘Play ball.’” — Willie Stargell



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had earmarked for new fencing, and from Build Our Ballpark donations, which were boosted recently by contributions from the Waterloo Kiwanis Club, the Waterloo Optimist Club and the Crossroads Rotary Club.

“When completed in 2010, the Tibbitts Complex will be used by kids ages four to 18 for organized play, and countless others for pickup games, tournaments, and other neighborhood activities,” reports Jon Olson, Development Director for Build Our Ballpark. “The project is a tangible example of Build Our Ballpark’s ongoing commitment to the Cedar Valley, and proof of the productive capabilities of partnerships between groups who share a common goal.” For more information about the Tibbitts Complex project, log on to www.


Productive Partnerships

Team Sports Tip the Scales New Parks for Next Year At a time when obesity among children has reached its highest level in history, encouraging physical activity has never been more important. Regular physical activity by children and adolescents improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety, and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.* But team sports do more than just help kids get physically fit. Research reports a multitude of benefits: • Learning physical skills. Young athletes learn both fundamental motor skills and sport-specific skills that allow them to stay active. • Appreciation of fitness. Two of the motives for participation in team sports identified by children are “to get exercise” and “stay in shape.”

Waterloo is bucking a nationwide trend of inactivity among our children. Enrollment numbers in Waterloo’s Leisure Services youth baseball and softball programs have never been higher, with over 100 teams fielded this year. But with this growth comes the challenge of finding enough quality, safe places to play, and the city is nearly ten fields short to schedule them effectively. So Build Our Ballpark stepped up to the plate! The first effort of a partnership between Waterloo Leisure Services and Build Our Ballpark will be renovations and additions to the Tibbitts Complex on West

Donald Street. The infields and mounds at the two existing fields will be releveled, and a new diamond for softball and baseball will be built and fenced. The fields will be outfitted with all the amenities needed for a first-class ballpark, including bleachers, dugouts and concrete backstops. Handicap accessibility will also play a major role in the renovations, including walkways for easier mobility to fans’ viewing areas, and larger gates for easy access for players and coaches with physical limitations. Financing from the project came from funds Waterloo Leisure Services

“Every member of our baseball team at West Point became a general: this proves the value of team sports.” — General Omar Bradley

• Sense of belonging. Another strong motive of participation is social interaction. Sports can provide peer interaction through both teammates and healthy competition.

“We’re excited to be a part of the Build Our Ballpark effort at the Tibbitts Complex. Kiwanis’ purpose is to ‘change the world one child and one community at a time,’ and contributing to this project will help us achieve that goal.”

• Acquiring sport skills for leisure. Learning the fundamental motor skills like coordination through sports can aid in skill development, but can also be transferred to other sports and leisure activities, promoting increased participation and involvement. • Learning skills for life. Team sports are particularly useful in promoting skills such as initiative, the ability to set and achieve goals, and the development of morals, selfworth and a sense of social competence. All these have a positive effect on personal growth and maturity.** *Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) **Research in Youth Sports: Critical Issues Status, Institute for the Study of Youth Sports, Michigan State University

— Barbara Miller President Waterloo Kiwanis Club

Tibbitts Field BEFORE …

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Community Impact

“Hellman Field has helped out our neighborhood quite a bit. It gives the kids in the neighborhood a quality place to play and more opportunities to participate in positive, characterbuilding activities like the After School League. We value our little ballpark a lot. It represents progress, which is very important to our neighborhood.” — Charles Myles, President UNITY Neighborhood Association

“It’s just what our department needed. It’s not often that people come to us and offer to help at this level. We’re overjoyed and very appreciative.” — Mark Gallagher Sports Manager Waterloo Leisure Services Department

“Youth baseball is extremely important to High School baseball programs – this is the first real chance that kids have to improve their baseball fundamentals – but more importantly, these youth baseball programs and facilities are where kids build a lifelong passion for the game. Kids today have many options for using their time, and are naturally drawn to both events and facilities that spark their interest, challenge their abilities, create a fun and safe environment, and give them a sense of pride.

The game of baseball fulfills many of these needs, but the experience is greatly enhanced with clean, safe, and useful facilities, which is

why programs like ‘Build Our Ballpark’ are very important to fueling a passion for the game of baseball.”

— Terry Goerdt Varsity Baseball Coach Columbus High School




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Come join the fun! Iowa First in Nation to Proclaim “Youth Baseball and Softball Day.” May 19, 2009 Build Our Ballpark has secured a proclamation from Governor Chester J. Culver to name May 19, 2009, Youth Baseball and Softball Day in the State of Iowa. The proclamation recognizes the many benefits that youth baseball and softball provide, including:

• Many hours of enjoyment for both players and fans. • The teaching of valuable life lessons, including teamwork and character building. • Keeping children active and engaged in a healthy lifestyle.

• Encouraging support from communities that embrace the sport. The proclamation goes on to encourage all Iowans to participate in the observance of the day. Here in the Cedar Valley, the event will be honored at Hellman Field’s first night game, a T-ball doubleheader with a celebration that includes: • Reading of the proclamation, and an address by Waterloo Mayor Tim Hurley. • A performance by the Color Guard of the East High School Junior ROTC.

• Singing of the National Anthem by the Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence Children’s Choir. • The ceremonial first flip-of-the-switch of the park’s new lighting system. Getting the State of Iowa to proclaim Youth Baseball and Softball Day is the first step of Build Our Ballpark’s strategy to eventually have the day honored at a national level.

“Baseball is an important part of American culture and history,” explains Bob Hellman, Executive Director of Build Our Ballpark. “And obviously our organization believes strongly in the many benefits participating in baseball and softball bring to not only our nation’s youth, but to the families, friends and communities that become involved and help to support it. It’s part of America, and we believe it’s appropriate to have a national day set aside to officially honor it.”

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Bob Hellman BASEBALL’S BIGGEST FAN The Arizona sun beats down relentlessly on his baseball cap. He, oblivious to the heat, is gazing intently as the next batter steps up to the plate. On that very day in March, back home in Waterloo, Iowa, it will snow seven inches. No matter. Because he’s got new talent to evaluate, players to meet, autographs to collect. It’s spring training for half of America’s major league baseball teams, and Bob Hellman wouldn’t miss it for the world. In fact, he hasn’t missed it for 21 years in a row. Bob Hellman is the founder and Chairman of the Board of Hellman, a well-respected advertising agency based here in Waterloo. And one look around his office reveals that Bob has baseball in his blood.

You’ll find an astonishing collection of autographed balls and bats, bobblehead dolls, photographs of fields and players, and other baseball memorabilia that serve as his personal “shrine” to the sport. Paintings commissioned by former Hellman illustrators commemorating famous players adorn the walls of the agency. Equally impressive is the baseball library he has amassed, with a collection of autobiographies, stories and reference books that would make many a civic library proud. If ever a book was written or a movie made about baseball, you can bet Bob has read or seen it. A true baseball historian, Bob’s knowledge of the history of the game is unrivaled. One might say he is passionate about the game. And that might be an understatement.

BUILD OUR BALLPARK It is this passion for baseball that led Bob to reflect on the fact that “Our National Pastime” was becoming quite literally that: past time. An emphasis on other sports and a declining number of ballparks were depriving our youth of not only the joys, but also the character-building benefits of playing baseball and softball. So he decided to do something about it. With a $90,000 gift from his family, help from the City of Waterloo, and donations from local businesses and citizens, an empty lot in east Waterloo near where Bob grew up was transformed into a modern ballpark, complete with bleachers, dugouts, scoreboard and lights. Hellman Field has not only provided area youth an opportunity to rediscover the joys of baseball, it has revitalized a neighborhood, as residents gather to watch the games, share cookouts, and remember the days of yore when they were the ones stepping up to the plate or fielding the fly balls.

This led Bob to a revelation: If one small group of people working as a team to build one small ballpark could have so much impact, why not find a way to help others do the same all across town? Or across the state? Or why not the whole country? So “Build Our Ballpark” was born and a new inning in Bob’s life began. Is Bob Hellman baseball’s

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biggest fan? In physical stature – definitely not. In size of collection – maybe. In depth of knowledge – possibly. But when it comes to a vision and determination to bring the heart and soul of baseball back to our nation’s youth, it would be hard to find his equal. O

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Field of Dreams Hellman Field

The catalyst behind the idea for the Build Our Ballpark organization, Hellman Field began as a line item on a “wish list.’’ The Hellman advertising agency has long been a supporter of the Waterloo Public Schools and its Partner in Education program, the Dr. Walter J. Cunningham School for Excellence. It so happens the elementary school is located just a few blocks from where the agency founder and chairman of the board, Bob Hellman, grew up. When Hellman asked Cunningham Principal Liz Crowley what the school needed, she listed items that included art supplies and other donations. At the bottom of the list was something that seemed somewhat unusual. “It read ‘Build a ballpark,’” Bob recalls. “Liz probably just put that in there, thinking it would be a throwaway.” But Bob became inspired, lamenting the lack of ballparks on the city’s east side, and remembering how, in his youth, he had to peddle his bike to the west side of town just to play in sandlot baseball games. The rest is history. What once was a big chunk of land with sandburs on it is now a Little League-size Ballpark with bleachers, dugouts, an elec-

“Hellman Field brings people from around the community to common ground that has seldom occurred before! The impact has been very positive for Cunningham School, the surrounding neighborhood, and the community as a whole, and should remain a ‘positive’ for years to come!” — Lynn Neill Family Support Worker Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence


tronic scoreboard, and most recently, lights. In fact, Hellman Field’s first night game is slated for May 19, coinciding with the State of Iowa’s first annual Youth Baseball and Softball Day (see related story). Thanks to the Hellman family, the Waterloo

School Board, Waterloo Leisure Services, and area businesses and residents who provided donations, this field of dreams is now a reality, and a vibrant focal point for both aspiring ball players and area residents alike. O




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Join the Team! Go to bat for our nation’s youth. “Building and improving ballparks is like baseball and softball – it’s a team sport. We can’t do it alone. Individuals like you, and businesses like yours, make the good work we do possible. Please step up to the plate and join our lineup of donors, so that together, we can ensure our youth have the opportunity to experience the benefits that ballparks bring. You can also help Build Our Ballpark by identifying fields in your neighborhood that need attention, or by sharing ideas on new construction. Interest in Build Our Ballpark is growing and stretches from coast to coast. Let’s make the Cedar Valley a shining example to the nation of what can be accomplished through teamwork. Help us give kids opportunities and instill pride in our community. Together, we can build a better generation of children, and rekindle the passion for America’s favorite pastime – one field at a time.”

— Bob Hellman

Executive Director Build Our Ballpark

There are many ways to donate. You can log on to and donate online. You can write a check and send it to: Build Our Ballpark P.O. Box 627 Waterloo, Iowa 50704 You can visit us at: 1225 West Fourth Street Waterloo, Iowa 50702 Your gift of any size is needed and welcome – and is tax-deductible. Build Our Ballpark is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

On Opening Night at Hellman Field, May 19, 2009, the bronze plaque bearing the names of major donors who helped take Hellman Field from dream to reality will be unveiled. It’s one way sponsors get well-deserved recognition for stepping up to the plate. But the real reward comes from knowing they’ve made a positive impact on young people’s lives.

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Hit a home run in your hometown! We can help.


Is YOUR community in need of building or restoring a ballpark? We can help with advice on how to get started. You’ll find a lot of information on our website, but we’ll also be happy to visit with you about how you can make your dream a reality.


For more information on how your community can become involved with building their own ballpark, please contact:

Bob Hellman Executive Director

Jon Olson Development Director

Mary Brown Account Manager





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“The After School League at Hellman Field is teaching me how to be a team player. I like being part of a team and learning that there is no ‘I’ in team.” — Marquas Gafeney

“Hellman Field gives me something to do after school that’s fun!” — Tyrone Howard

Build Our Ballpark Board of Directors “We are all about helping as many kids as we possibly can. We have a long history of supporting youth baseball and softball in the Cedar Valley.” — Mike Tompkins President Waterloo Optimist Club

Bob Hellman Jon Olson Mike Ruane Mark Ryan Aaron Buzza Michelle Teymeyer

1225 West Fourth St. Waterloo, IA 50702 319-234-7055 800-747-7055

“Supporting Build Our Ballpark is a great way for us to touch children’s lives in the Cedar Valley. They showed us a definite need in the community, and we are happy to help them fill it.” — Meg Brady President Crossroads Rotary Club

Build Our Ballpark  

There was nothing quite like it. The crack of the bat. The sweet smell of fresh cut grass. The warm sun shining down on your face. Everythin...

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