Connor Bailo always saw himself as a baseball coach and a CEO. The high school junior just never imagined filling both roles before his 17th birthday.
But earlier this year, Connor’s former coach asked him to take over the Trumbull Travel, his old Little League team in Trumbull, Connecticut. Connor happily agreed. And this spring, he’ll try to lead his team of 10 year olds to an East Shore Travel League title — when he’s not preparing for his driver’s license test.
“I love being around kids, and I’ve wanted to coach since I was little,” Connor says. “Sometimes they’re hard to control and to lead, but it’s fun to see what type of influence I have.”
Connor is used to having a positive impact on kids through baseball. At just 14 years old, he came up with the idea for Baseballs for a Better Community (BB4C), a nonprofit organization that collects and donates baseballs to help underprivileged youth experience and fall in love with the game.
BB4C officially launched last year. And as the 2016 Major League Baseball season begins, Connor celebrates the organization’s first anniversary by continuing to reach his goals of collecting one million baseballs and turning BB4BC into an official major league affiliate.
Connor was inspired to establish BB4C during a trip to watch the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, in 2012. As he and his dad bounced from stadium to stadium to watch games, they came across a team from Uganda that was playing without shoes.
“I had seen a story on the news about the Ugandan team,” Connor recalls. “They were so used to playing without basic equipment, like shoes, that even though Little League had supplied them with gear they decided not to wear it.”
The news coverage motivated Little Leaguers and fans to donate equipment to team Uganda and other international squads that lacked basic equipment. But Connor wanted to do even more.
“I was sitting in the stands and it kind of hit me that you can outgrow hats, gloves, or cleats,” Connor says. “But you never outgrow a baseball.”
Over the last year, BB4BC has grown tremendously. The organization has received about 1,600 new and slightly used baseballs (as well as around $1,000 in financial donations used to purchase baseballs) from all over the country. Connor has also paired with college teams and major league franchises, including the Red Sox, Marlins, and Mets.
Connor recently visited MLB commissioner Rob Manfred in New York, and now he’s working with top-level MLB executives to turn BB4BC into an official major league partner. He hopes BB4C can work with Major League Baseball to equip RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) leagues and even hold events and clinics in local communities.
Eventually, Connor wants to build a baseball field for underprivileged kids in the Dominican Republic.
But as the goals and initiatives evolve, sharing the lessons he’s learned through baseball remains the focus of Connor’s efforts.
“Baseball teaches lessons about teamwork and sportsmanship, but it also teaches you about overcoming failure,” Connor says. “In the end [learning from my failures] made me a better person and made me want to go train even harder to do my best. I want kids to have the opportunity to play baseball and enjoy the sport.”
Check out the Baseballs for a Better Community website to learn more about the organization!
Photos: Connor Bailo