Cultivating a community of human beings that share similar values, similar passions, and ambitions, but come from different walks of life is a rare feat. It requires a lot of patience, time, and, in the case of Jordan Baltimore, maybe a lawnmower or two. Founder of New York Empire Baseball and NYC native, Jordan combined his love of baseball and community to create an organization that gives kids a chance to be great at something they love. Falling into this role almost on accident, Jordan has been able to extend his reach into the five boroughs of New York City, allowing kids to coach kids, giving them and their baseball fields a second chance to harbor community, fraternity, and ambition in their hearts. When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, 2022 Jordan, like the rest of the world, felt helpless, confused, and filled with sorrow for the people of Ukraine being forced from their homes with and without their families, friends, or personal belongings. These feelings are what drove Jordan to find the answer to a question many Americans were asking themselves: How do you help citizens of a country that’s being torn apart by its neighbor? Jordan’s answer? You pick up some baseball gear, and you fly to Poland.
Dating back 15-years-ago, Jordan Baltimore was living the life of an average entrepreneur. He had ideas, he wrote them down, he executed many of them, and then he went home to do it all again the next day. Around this time, he felt he wanted to give back to the New York City community, and offered to volunteer his time to a Manhattan youth organization raking baseball fields for little kids to play on. Thrilled with his idea, he was asked to submit his resume and come in for an interview. Raking baseball fields was certainly not listed on Jordan’s resume, and he didn’t have any prior experience besides a few scrapes on his knees from sliding into home base. He also wasn’t sure what questions they could possibly ask about his ability to rake dirt. At the end of his interview, the organization told him he was a perfect fit for managing their8U travel baseball team. His initial answer was simply, no. Jordan wasn’t looking to coach, he just wanted to rake baseball fields in the morning and go about his day having done a good deed. Upon the insistence of Jordan being the ideal candidate for the role, he was told to attend a practice and if he didn’t like it he could rake all the fields he wanted.
Two weeks later, Jordan was managing the 8U travel baseball team. Two months later he was managing their entire travel baseball program, and two years later, New York Empire Baseball was born. While Jordan had no business plan, he had a love for the sport, and his mission was to bring a high-end, scientific approach to youth sports. At this time, he had a tech startup, had written a patent, and had an entire life outside of his newfound business. One team turned into two, two turned into 10, 10 turned into 30, etc. Before he knew it, the organization was his full-time job, and he purchased real estate on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to house the facility. At first, New York Empire Baseball catered to young kids who wanted to be seriously involved in sports and gave them access to high-end training and coaching that allowed them to love the game while being equally good at it. A few years later, Jordan got involved in some community work with neighboring communities, one of them being East Harlem’s little league. New York Empire Baseball began fixing up the field in East Harlem, giving many young kids out on summer break a chance to do something they too loved. From here, Jordan and his team started the Dollar a Day Camp, where kids from East Harlem would pay a dollar a day to participate in a baseball camp equipped with trainers, coaches, and equipment they never had before. After the high success rate of this camp, Jordan founded, Sharing Empire: a 501C3 organization that would now be able to officially partake in community work among the five boroughs. He began fixing baseball fields all over the city, finally fulfilling his dream of raking diamonds. Jordan’s passion for baseball, and for helping those less fortunate, allowed him to create a space where kids mentored kids. Coaches and trainers were not always 18 and up. 10-year-olds could easily learn from 15 or 16-year-olds. This, in turn, created a unique program that inadvertently formed tight bonds between peers.
On February 24th, 2022, Jordan, and the rest of the world watched as Russia invaded Ukraine. Physically and emotionally breaking down the bonds between citizen and country, while also igniting those among human beings who wanted to band together and do something to help. One of the moms from New York Empire Baseball had teamed up with the Sok Foundation (@fundacjasok); a kitchen and cooking school for underprivileged kids in Warsaw, who pivoted to help orphan refugees who were coming into the country from Ukraine. The Sok Foundation provided activities and housing for Ukrainian children through an orphanage called, Happy Kids. There were 650 children from 10 orphanages across Ukraine put into one orphanage with 15 teachers in Poland. Upon hearing about work between the Foundation and the orphanage, Jordan made it his mission to be one of the kids’ activities for the day. As fate would have it, the President of the Sok Foundation had plans to come to the United States to attend a fundraiser in NYC. Jordan and the President met, and after a convincing walk on the Upper West Side, it was decided that Jordan, along with 6 kids from New York Empire Baseball, would be traveling to Warsaw to provide humanitarian aid and play a little baseball with Ukrainian refugees. According to Jordan, “It was the easiest thing to pull off.” He chose individuals he knew were selfless, passionate, and willing to work to bring with him. Going to a country whose neighbor is at war isn’t always the most appealing of destinations, however, when it was time to ask the parents of these 6 kids if they could contribute to the cause, their response was, “Can we come too?”
With his plan effortlessly unfolding before him, Jordan wanted to make sure his team had something to wear that would keep them comfortable. He headed to the Rhone store to purchase a variety of shirts and shorts with the intention of having them embroidered with “New York Empire Baseball,” in blue and yellow thread. When our team members questioned Jordan on why he was purchasing so much of the same product, his response was simply, “I’m going to Warsaw.”
Upon arrival in Poland, Jordan and his team immediately traveled to bus depots, train stations, and different orphanages to pair up donated shoes, cook, and hand out food. The following day, they packed up their baseball gear and headed to Happy Kids. Jordan’s team showed up in a patch of grass with baseballs, bats, and gloves, and began to teach hundreds of kids who didn’t speak English how to play baseball. It became very clear, very quickly, that what made the difference to these kids enjoying learning a game in a foreign language with foreign company, was that said company looked like them. It wasn’t just Jordan - some random guy who loves baseball from the United States, it was individuals who looked like they could be their brothers, sisters, neighbors, cousins, family. The following morning, Jordan and his team went to the American School of Warsaw to play some more baseball. They celebrated with a barbeque and a proper game of baseball played by all the adults and kids from Jordan’s team, as well as some participants from the American School of Warsaw. The goal was to have the kids watch and understand what a true game of baseball is all about. When it was time to go, no one wanted to leave. The bonds that had been created over a period of a few days were ones that should take years to build. Prior to leaving, Jordan asked one of the many children from the orphanage, via translator, if they enjoyed being at the orphanage in Warsaw, and if they liked the activities and the other children they spent time with. His response:
“I feel safe here.”
Crisis has a way of bringing people together. Human beings are capable of conquering amazing feats, yet we don’t know what we’re capable of until we’re faced with adversity. For Ukrainian citizens, it was either hiding, fleeing, or sheltering from the country they had been born and bred into. For citizens of the world, it was praying and mourning for a country fighting with weapons and numbers they simply did not have. For Jordan Baltimore and New York Empire Baseball, it was finding a way to provide relief for children forced to grow up far too quickly, with the help of a ball and a glove.