When Portland’s Bayside Little League recently hosted a summer baseball tournament, Jim Hanna saw the same thing happen at the conclusion of each day: A group of six to 10 children who he recognized from the community, but not from organized baseball, would run onto the field to play.

“I encouraged them to sign up, and I knew they liked to play baseball, but I don’t know if they even knew how to sign up for baseball,” Hanna said. “Part of our job is to get kids involved.”

Facing a drop in participation, Hanna merged his career as a nonprofit consultant with his involvement in Little League Baseball. Hanna, a coach and the baseball majors director for Bayside Little League, helped spearhead the process for the organization to apply for Major League Baseball’s Baseball Tomorrow Fund grant program. MLB recently awarded Bayside Little League a $5,555 grant that will go toward renovations at Payson Park’s Loring Field, provide coaches with training sessions, and assist the organization’s community outreach programs.

“It’s a start to enhance our programs, and part of a more holistic and strategic outreach plan,” said Hanna, who specializes in grant-writing and development for nonprofit organizations.

Bayside Little League covers the Portland peninsula, as well as neighborhoods east of Allen Avenue and Forest Avenue and several island neighborhoods in Casco Bay.

“We’re in the lowest-income communities in the city, where fundraising is an issue,” Hanna said. “Part of what we’re trying to do was increase the participation in the communities in our league, as well as some of the specific ethnic group organizations and schools.

“We also saw the opportunity to get funding to support the training of coaches, and to get more parents involved and comfortable in coaching.”

The Baseball Tomorrow Fund’s mission is to provide grants to help youth baseball and softball programs increase participation, construct or renovate fields, and provide stipends for uniforms, equipment and coaching training.

“Bayside Little League had applied to support field renovations and to improve coaches’ training,” said Cathy Bradley, Major League Baseball’s executive director of the Baseball Tomorrow Foundation.

“We really liked what the organization was doing as far as trying to improve training, and the outreach they provided to some of the families in the community who are low-income or who may not participate in youth sports.”

About 500 organizations apply each year for the Baseball Tomorrow Fund grants, which are awarded on a quarterly basis. Bayside Little League is one of six recipients of the most recent grants, awarded at the end of July.

The grant’s application and evaluation process lasts from three to six months. Bayside Little League applied in January and went through a four-month process that included an application and a letter of intent, a proposal for what the grant would go toward, and a site visit by the Baseball Tomorrow Fund in June.

At the end of July, Hanna learned that Bayside Little League was one of the third-quarter recipients.

“The goal for them is to become self-sustaining, but a grant like Baseball Tomorrow allows them to do something extra,” Bradley said.

“Our grants aren’t intended to provide normal operating expenses. A grant like this gives them that additional kind of shot in the arm to do something they’ve needed for a long time without having to go through four or five years of logistics.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

[email protected]