AZ nonprofits rely on Spring Training for donations. MLB labor dispute could be devastating


Matthew Casey / KJZZ

Kimberly Muhammad (left to right), her son Israel and Jibriel Saunders take a break from gardening at Peoria Elementary School.

Jibriel Saunders used a hand rake to plow new soil in one of the roughly 20 flower beds that dot the Peoria Elementary School campus.

“Right now, it’s the reconstruction process after the pandemic,” he said.

The garden of herbs, staple vegetables and exotic fruits has helped feed more than 100 families as the virus wreaked havoc.

“We want to let children know that there are fresh products. We want to teach them how to use it. We want to teach them how to cook it, ”said Saunders, who calls himself Chef Bombay.

Jibriel saunders

Matthew Casey / KJZZ

Jibriel Saunders, aka Chef Bombay, works in the community garden he maintains for Zuri’s Circle at Peoria Elementary School.

The gardening work that Saunders does is done through a non-profit organization called Zuri’s Circle. Co-founder Kimberly Muhammad helped water new plants.

“One of the things we’re going to do at the start of the year is resume our program,” she said. “And each student who participates will receive a gardening apron. They’re going to be able to come here and plant. They will be able to take this food home, ”she said.

The money for the work came from the Peoria Diamond Club. This was the second time the group had turned Cactus League sponsorship into funding for Zuri’s Circle.

“The first year we applied, we got a grant from them. And it was wonderful because it helped us to start putting things in this garden, ”Muhammad said.

Spring training, which the Peoria Diamond Club uses to donate to nonprofits and charities that help children, faces big disruption for the third year in a row. This time, it’s because the owners of Major League Baseball locked their players out on December 2nd.

“And we believe this is the best strategy to protect the 2022 season for the benefit of our fans,” Commissioner Rob Manfred said at a press conference.

The work stalemate is a concern for many organizations in Arizona that rely on the economic impact of the Cactus League. Manfred was asked if a working deal needs to be made by a certain date to avoid having to delay or cancel matches.

“I just think speculating on delivery times at this point (is) not productive,” Manfred replied.

The baseball players’ union leader accused Manfred of putting lies in a letter to fans. The parties do not seem close to an agreement. It is possible that the union struggle will continue beyond the start date of the spring training.

Days after Manfred’s intervention, CEO Roz Shanley addressed members of the Peoria Diamond Club at a toy drive and social event.

Volunteers munched on mini Bundt cakes and sat at long tables in a grand, luxury suite built into the third baseline bleachers of Peoria’s Cactus League baseball stadium.

Roz shanley

Matthew Casey / KJZZ

Roz Shanley, Executive Director of the Peoria Diamond Club, presents a grant to Zuri’s Circle.

“Thank you for launching the spirit of the season by brightening up the life of a child. That’s what these toys are going to do, ”Shanley said.

Volunteers run the park on match days. Their work is the foundation of fundraising that pays for grants, like those used to grow fresh produce in the community garden at Peoria Elementary School. Shanley said she had heard questions about the baseball lockdown before.

“I will just say, by the way, that we hope and pray and are optimistic that they can come to an agreement and that it will be as soon as possible,” she said.

The plan, Shanley told the crowd, is to prepare for a normal Cactus League in 2022. Researchers at Arizona State University said that in 2018 this had an economic impact of around 650 million dollars. dollars.

“Here we are after two very strange seasons,” she said.

The construction of the Peoria complex in the 1990s solidified Arizona as a spring training host. The site prevented clubs from migrating to Florida and opened up the West Valley for Cactus League expansion.

Bob Hegedus is an original member of the Diamond Club.

“Well if you love baseball you can’t beat it. Not just the people, but you are up to the players, ”he said.

Hegedus is optimistic for 2022 despite the union struggle.

“It’s going to end and we’ll have spring training again because it has to go,” he said.

Peoria groups that receive grants to help children through the work Hegedus and others do hope he is right.

More stories from KJZZ

Kimberly mohammed

Matthew Casey / KJZZ

Kimberly Muhammad, co-founder of Zuri’s Circle, accepts a grant from the Peoria Diamond Club.

Kimberly mohammed

Matthew Casey / KJZZ

Kimberly Muhammad and her son Israel work in the community garden cultivated by the Zuri Circle at Peoria Primary School


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