After talking with him, I get the sense that when John Tumminia prays, he’s not praying for Chris Sale’s elbow, or for Tim Anderson to develop plate discipline.
But from my impression after talking with the White Sox professional scout, Tumminia’s prayers go deeper than the “Good Guys.”
They go to the core of baseball, the interactions between people playing the game. Baseball isn’t a solo sport, and Tumminia isn’t a solo agent when it comes to his Baseball Miracles organization. But he’s the driving force and spirit behind the group, a team of volunteer baseball and softball instructors who work together to bring baseball, and some hope, to economically and environmentally disadvantaged kids throughout the world.
Baseball Miracles has been and will go anywhere. They’ve held clinics in recent years in New York and South Dakota, in Ireland and South Africa, in Kenya and Honduras, and most recently in a First Nations reservation in Canada.
Next stop: Oct. 6-10, in eastern Kentucky.
“We get a big globe,” Tumminia explained, “then we turn it, we point to it and then we go where we our finger picks. It’s that simple.”
The clinics aren’t complicated either. Tumminia and his group of volunteers gather as much equipment as they can, usually all donated, and line up fields for baseball clinics that focus on the basics. Tumminia’s goal is for every child to get a ball and a glove, the basic elements to play catch and feel like a kid, no matter the circumstances.
That included the biggest clinic that Baseball Miracles has put on, in Kenya in 2013, together with the charitable Bread and Water Foundation, when about 400 kids were on hand over three days. Tumminia had only seven instructors on hand, but said he was amazed and inspired by the support from the local volunteers, teachers and community leaders and considers the trip one of Baseball Miracles’ great successes. Every kid got a glove, every kid got a ball.
It all started when Tumminia was retiring from his first career. For years, Tumminia held two jobs: pro scout, and recreation director at a prison near his home in Newburgh, N.Y.
“I was lucky to work for two wardens who loved baseball,” Tumminia said. “I was allowed to do community work for the prison—‘Corrections as a good neighbor’ was the motto—and they allowed me to do both jobs.”
Tumminia unwittingly was training for his Baseball Miracles post by doing baseball clinics in the local community and even in the prison, along with other service projects. When he told his wife in 2009 that he was retiring from his prison job but would still scout, she asked him what he was going to do with all that time on his hands. Putting on clinics was her idea.
Tumminia isn’t shy about his other motivation for Baseball Miracles: He’s a devout Catholic with strong Christian faith. But Baseball Miracles follows the gospel of baseball. The only thing he’s proselytizing is the game, and bringing a little hope to kids, even if only for a weekend.
“Our group is not a religious group, and we have some very spiritual people with us, but also some philanthropists,” he said. “What drives the group is we love baseball and want to to let kids have a catch with a dad, have a catch like we do. We want them to have a chance to grow up and be a kid, be a teenager, and to be exposed to our society.”
Now Tumminia is working with White Sox scouting director Nick Hostetler, who lives in Kentucky, to help organize the event in the eastern part of that state. They’re trying to get more donations of gloves; Baseball Miracles’ stock was below 150, insufficient for the October clinic.
Gloves have a special place in Tumminia’s baseball life, as he’s a passionate collector of vintage gloves. His passion for gloves is one reason they’re included at every clinic, and passion is what drives him to the next clinic, the next site, the next group.
He’s passionate about the game, and passionate about his faith. They’ve pushed him to create a legacy and a little miracle, one clinic at a time, one kid at a time; a legacy as simple as a ball, a glove and a game of catch.
Those prayers have been answered.
To find out more about Baseball Miracles, including how to donate, go to www.baseballmiracles.org