When two people you highly admire come together with a dream journey down Route 66, all you can do is say “I can’t wait to see their results.”
Jean Fruth, one of today’s pre-eminent baseball photographers, and retiring National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum president, Jeff Idelson, announced the launch of Grassroots Baseball – a program dedicated to promoting and celebrating the amateur game around the globe, with a focus on growing interest and participation at the youngest levels.
This comes immediately on the heels of the publication of Grassroots Baseball: Where Legends Begin by Jean Fruth, the traveling photographer for La Vida Baseball, a digital media company and Baseball Hall of Fame partner that tells the story of Latino baseball across the United States and Latin America.
In her new book, Grassroots Baseball: Where Legends Begin, Fruth features more than 250 of the best images from all levels of the amateur game in the US as well as several hotbeds of baseball around the world.
Each chapter opens with a portrait of a baseball legend and a first-person essay recounting his early memories of playing the game. Some of the stars highlighted in this full-color book include Whitey Ford, Vladimir Guerrero, Hank Aaron, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, and Ichiro Suzuki. The pages that follow in each chapter document the game from sandlots to big time ballparks, and at every level of organized baseball, giving readers a window into how these legends’ careers began. With an introduction by Cal Ripken, Jr., a foreword by Steve Wulf, and an afterword by Johnny Bench, this book makes the perfect gift for baseball fans of all teams.
Beginning in May, over the course of six months, Grassroots Baseball will set out on its high-profile, celebrity-fueled Route 66 Tour featuring Hall of Famers and other retired major league Route 66 stars who will deliver instruction, inspiration and equipment to children in 12 communities across the country.
Baseball Hall of Fame legend Goose Gossage will serve as Grassroots Baseball’s national spokesman and participate at several Route 66 tour stops. Other participating Hall of Fame and Route 66 legends include Johnny Bench, George Brett and Jim Thome. A complete Route 66 tour schedule and line-up will be announced in the coming weeks.
Recognized by Sony as one of its 45 Sony Artisans of Imagery, Fruth will photograph the tour for the second Grassroots book in the series, to be titled, Grassroots Baseball: Route 66.
“I’ve learned that the game is more than just a sport – it is dreams and aspirations for so many youngsters wherever I go,” said Fruth. “The culture of baseball is so much bigger than just what happens on the field. I look forward to continuing the journey of documenting the amateur game, inspiring the next generation of young ball players and telling the stories of Grassroots Baseball with my images.”
Idelson has spent 33 years in baseball, the first eight in public relations with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, and the last 25 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, where he has served as president of the venerable institution since 2008. He will be retiring from his position at the end of summer.
“I’ve spent my career promoting the major league game, its history makers and the National Pastime’s deep connection to American culture,” said Idelson. “Baseball is also about celebrating kids around the globe who play and enjoy the game, whether they’re playing in a park, on a sandlot, in the streets, or in a minor league ballpark. The overarching goal of Grassroots Baseball is to give back by providing inspiration, instruction and equipment to help ensure more children have the opportunity to learn, play and enjoy the game, and we can’t wait to begin.”
For more information, visit www.GrassrootsBaseball.com. Follow @grassrootsbaseball on Instagram, and @GrassrootsBB on Facebook and Twitter.
By Dave Reynolds
of the Journal Star
Posted May 2, 2019 at 9:42 PM
Updated May 2, 2019 at 11:45 PM
PEORIA — Jim Thome never hit leadoff in his Hall of Fame baseball career. But he did a good job of it Thursday at Dozer Park as the first guest celebrity ballplayer to join the inaugural Route 66 youth clinic tour for Grassroots Baseball.
The 12-stop tour, which loosely follows historic U.S. Route 66 that wound from Chicago to Los Angeles, began with one of baseball’s newest Hall of Famers talking to and playing catch with 35 kids from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Peoria.