Charity Issue: From rookie to veteran


Maya Rubin

The Redbird Rookies are a youth baseball and softball program for underprivileged children

St. Louis’ rich tradition of baseball gives every kid a baseball fever. However, some of these kids cannot afford to play travel baseball. Redbird Rookies, a youth baseball and softball program sponsored by Cardinals Care, hopes to change that. 

Tony Evans, volunteer organizer of the Redbird Rookies league in Normandy, Missouri, hopes to give kids who cannot afford to play in an official baseball league the chance to play. Evans organizes one of the 14 different Redbird Rookie leagues in St. Louis.

 “What I really like about the Redbird Rookies is that we get kids [who] have never played baseball before,” Evans said. “We get to develop [the kids] and teach them to be better ballplayers.”

We get to develop [the kids] and teach them to be better ballplayers.

— Tony Evans

Evans said he played baseball in college and interned at the Cardinals Triple-A affiliate Memphis Redbirds. Because of his past experience Redbird Rookies asked him to run a league and ever since he started, he said he has loved it. 

“I get gratification from watching that one kid, who at the start didn’t know how to put his glove on the right way, [become] one of the best players in the league,” Evans said. “It’s even more gratifying watching kids mature through their lives and become great young men and women.”

Amanda Small, manager at Cardinals Care and Youth Baseball and Softball Commissioner, said that anyone can start a baseball league through Redbird Rookies. Reaching out to Redbird Rookies and Cardinals Care is the first step. 

“We partner with local parks, churches and other places that want to host a league for kids in their neighborhood,” Small said. “They are provided with resources so they are able to have a Redbird Rookies league.”

Small said the kids who want to play need to register on the Redbird Rookies website. The kids then receive their uniforms and equipment.

The Redbird Rookies scoreboard sits behind third base at Mark McGwire Field (Marilynn Steuby)

“When registration opens, each neighborhood promotes their league through flyers and the league organizers talk to kids through their schools,” Small said. “[The kids] will pick which league they want to join and fill out questions about themselves.”

Marybeth Johnson, manager of Communications and Charity events, said Redbird Rookies is a special program that helps kids through five pillars: health, education, cultural arts, mentorship and scholarship.  

“We have a health fair every season where we invite Redbird Rookie participants and their families to get health screenings, ” Johnson said. “[For education], we encourage the kids to be good students and provide them with a reading program they can participate in.”

Johnson said Redbird Rookies also tries to give the kids a chance to experience the city of St. Louis. They take them on field trips and show them some of the special places in St. Louis such as the Art Museum or The Muny.

 “We invite participants to cultural arts events at the Sheldon and the Stifel Theatre,” Johnson said. “We’ve had performances from musical groups and dance groups that are always child friendly and interactive.”

She said Redbird Rookies partners with other programs to help each participant get the support they need. Kids at every age receive help, from elementary all the way to high school.

 “We partner with Big Brothers Big Sisters to provide mentorship for kids who would otherwise be unable to receive it,” Johnson said. “We also have a relationship with a program called College Bound that helps kids get into college.” 

Johnson said that the reason Redbird Rookies is better than other baseball and softball programs is that it is a completely free program. Kids from a

ll social classes can join and are supported through the five pillars. 

“It’s also not [only] about playing baseball and softball,” Johnson said. “We hope that each participant will come out as a more well-rounded individual”