A baseball foundation that donates about $50,000 a year to Valley-based charities — money raised through former Major Leaguers selling autographs and memorabilia during spring training — has been moved from its familiar position, but remains a presence at Mesa’s Hohokam Stadium.
The Arizona and Canada-based Fergie Jenkins Foundation, named after the Hall of Fame pitcher who spent most of his career with the Chicago Cubs, no longer holds court in the grassy area along the third base line, but now is nestled behind the “hitter’s eye” in centerfield near various concession stands.
The group, which features Hall of Famers such as Jenkins, Rollie Fingers and Gaylord Perry and other star names such as Vida Blue, George Foster, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Bert Campaneris and Bill Buckner, has made contributions to area charities and nonprofits such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, St. Mary’s Food Bank and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Arizona in the past.
“People know where we were, and we definitely want people to know we’re still there, just in a different place,” said foundation executive director Carl Kovacs.
“A lot of people would come into the ballpark early and see us right away, but now with us being in a different location and farther away from the crowd, we hope we can continue to raise what we’ve done in the past. People just need to be aware that we’re still out here, but just in a different spot. We still want people to come and see us.”
Carl Kovacs, executive director of the foundation, said that this year that SportsCastor Marketing, which oversees the marketing for the city of Mesa at Hohokam Stadium, requested the foundation pay a rental fee for the area along the third base line for the first time in five years; however, it opted not to pay the fee for financial reasons. Kovacs also raised concerns about less time the foundation now has to raise money, as the gates now open at noon on game days instead of 10:30 a.m. as in the past.
The Fergie Jenkins Foundation also is staffing players at all of the San Francisco Giants home games at Scottsdale Stadium as well as at Oakland A’s games at Phoenix Municipal Stadium and games at the Peoria Sports Complex and Surprise Stadium.
This year, stadium officials decided to place food booths in the grassy area along the third base line, said Mark Gallo, manager for Hohokam Stadium who works for Mesa. An energy drink now is in the space the foundation formerly set up shop in.
“We will continue to post signs at the gates alerting fans to where Fergie’s booth is and continue to make announcements for the foundation throughout the games,” Gallo told the Tribune on Tuesday.
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