Michigan Baseball Foundation now accepting grant applications

If you’ve noticed new fencing, dugouts at Little League fields, playground equipment and other local improvements, it’s likely that the Michigan Baseball Foundation (MBF) was behind the project. The MBF was established in 2006 to promote investment and vibrancy in Midland, while supporting local youth organizations across the Great Lakes Bay Region. 

Each year, the 501(c)(3) non-profit charity invites the community to apply for MBF grants. Other non-profit organizations based in mid-Michigan can fill out applications for help with funding capital projects. The decision to fund an organization's project is determined by one or more of the following guidelines: Must contribute to economic development regionally, serve young people, and promote sports, fitness and health. 2023 grant applications are available online now. The applications must be submitted by  Feb. 15.

Vice President & Secretary of the MBF and the Chair of MBF Grants Committee, Mike Hayes, says the grant program is just one reason why MBF is really special. 
Mike Hayes is Vice-President & Secretary of the Michigan Baseball Foundation.
“Michigan Baseball Foundation is the owner of the Dow Diamond, and one of our subunits is the Great Lakes Loons,” he says. “We’re one of the very unique structures in the United States in that our operation is owned and operated by a not-for-profit. Most minor and major league baseball are for-profit organizations.”

The grant program has made a huge impact visually on the region, with past grant recipients including field improvements, playground equipment, baseball backstop netting systems, basketball hoops, sports program improvements, scoreboards and concessions stands in Arenac, Bay, Midland, Ogemaw, Saginaw counties, and more.

“Primarily what we like to fund are youth-oriented if we can,” Hayes says. “We like to fund things that are lasting, that have a life to them. For example, playground equipment or dugouts for little league fields, maybe reworking of fencing, and things like that that have a good lifespan to them. I don’t think there’s a Little League operation within an hour's drive of Midland that we haven’t done something for.”

Hayes says the grants committee has a tried-and-true method for reviewing each application. “Every year when the grant applications come in, we try to award the grants based on a formula that we use that is driven by ticket sales of the Great Lakes Loons, by county,” he says. “You can see a distribution in our annual report; Midland, Saginaw, and Bay County are the three big areas where most of our tickets are purchased from.” We try to apportion it by the number of tickets sold per county. We work it as best as we can.”

MBF grant awarded to the YMCA Uptown Park court project in Bay City.
While not every project funded has a MBF identifier on it, Hayes says it’s important for the MBF to let people know about these non-profits and the work they’re doing together in the community. 

“We try to put a sign on what we do so people know that when they go to a Loons game, that the Michigan Baseball Foundation and Great Lakes Loons are putting money back into the community. Over the last 13-14 years, it’s been just short of $1.3 million.”

Not all grants are sports-related, as Hayes says, the organization “likes to spread the wealth.” Typically, grants range from $2,000 to $10,000 per organization, although in the past, MBF has also invested even more in the community. “

We have one major commitment we made a couple of years ago, The Miracle Field in Midland,” Hayes says. “We thought that was not only an important segment of our population that doesn’t have access to a sporting venue, and we thought it was more of an economic development project that we felt we could make a major contribution to in the central part of Midland. We put a $50,000 grant into that, but that was a one-time deal because we thought it was a really good investment of our resources to create a brand new venue, and it’s been phenomenal.”

Grant recipients will be notified by the end of March or beginning of April, according to Hayes. “We really like to have the organization appear at a Loons game during the season, and we do the oversized check presentation on the field as a way to encourage other people to apply for grants, and to give the organizations some recognition that they’re out there and they’re doing good things.”

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Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at sarahspohn.news@gmail.com.