Teen’s nonprofit levels playing field for young athletes

Caitlin White, a junior at Xavier College Preparatory,  believes that all kids can play ball regardless of their family’s ability to afford equipment. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Caitlin White, a junior at Xavier College Preparatory, believes that all kids can play ball regardless of their family’s ability to afford equipment. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Most kids dabble in a sport or two in their preschool or elementary years, but that doesn’t mean they arrive fully equipped.

Caitlin White is slowly changing that. She believes that all kids can play ball regardless of their family’s ability to afford equipment. She founded Double Play Sports to bridge the gap between older athletes who have outgrown or upgraded their gear and aspiring athletes with a desire to play.

“I kept looking at the shelves full of used sports equipment in my garage and thought it would be great to get this equipment into the hands of kids whose parent couldn’t afford to buy a mitt, bat, cleats, shoes, pads or helmet,” White said.

She founded Double Play Sports last year and has at least eight regular collection sites at area health clubs, rehabilitation centers, doctors’ offices and local businesses. St. Theresa Catholic School has also taken up a collection and White, a junior at Xavier College Preparatory, is hoping to secure donations from other Catholic schools.

One of the larger collections Double Play Sports received was from a “Day at the Baseball Field” a couple of weeks ago. Athletes filled three carloads of equipment. Others forgot, but knew they had items to give, so White is planning a second collection day with the McCormick Ranch Little League.

“People are so happy to be getting rid of it and having it go someplace beside the trash,” said Joan White, Caitlin’s mom. “It just needs that transfer.”

For now, the family garage serves as the storage center for Double Play Sports. There are at least six boxes — six cubic feet each — full of gear for nearly every school and community sport.

It’s usable gear, some of it quite pricey too, the younger White said, noting a baseball bat that she said retails for $200. She started soccer at age four, but spent most of her life in softball before turning to track this year.

“My teams showed up with new sports equipment bags full of new equipment every season. I remember playing against softball teams where five girls would share one softball mitt, and the whole team would have maybe three helmets, whereas on our team the problem was to find your helmet in the multitude of helmets in our dugout,” White said.

Donors to Double Play Sports are helping level the playing field. Physical education students and athletes at both St. Gregory Catholic School and St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School now have equipment for more efficient training and storage.

Double Play Sports essentially opened a free sporting thrift store at each school in recent weeks where something as simple as equipment bags were a commodity. Equipment filled 10 lunch tables at St. Gregory, including a large shoe department for the coaches and students to browse.

Michael Schrader, the physical education coach and athletic director at St. Gregory, took eight tennis rackets among other things April 12 and set aside additional items for specific athletes he had in mind.

“It is really nice to see a student living her faith in a positive way such as yourself,” the coach wrote in a thank you letter. He later affirmed that she was doing great work in God’s name.

White remembers being swarmed with aspiring athletes at St. Vincent de Paul during her trip there in March. She said the coaches were excited to obtain additional bats, batting screens and cones to enhance their Catholic Youth Athletic Association programs. Students and parents were also grateful.

“We were all so blessed by Caitlin’s desire to make sure that our student athletes have sports equipment available to them,” said Rose DeFer, the school development director.

Double Play Sports

The nonprofit ensures that all kids can play ball by collecting used sporting equipment and distributing it to athletes in need.

To organize an equipment drive or establish an on-site collection box, email doubleplaysportsforkids@gmail.com.