Joe Carabello, a successful real estate developer in Denver, Colorado, came up with an idea one late-summer day in 2010: a weekly softball game for the homeless.
Joe Carabello started noticing the large number of homeless people in his old neighborhood in Denver, while riding his bike in 2010. He especially noticed the significant numbers living in parks next to empty baseball fields, and that’s when he came up with a very unique idea. He would start a weekly softball game for the homeless people living in the area. He explains:
I thought it was such an odd idea, and to be honest with you, I didn’t think the chances of the program succeeding like it has were very good. How do you gather people from every walk of life, different ethnicities, ages and genders and on top of that, they live in an unstructured world?
But Carabello decided to give it a try, and using his unique calling card—a softball on which he has written the time and date of the game: 9 p.m., Tuesday—he reached out to missions and other organizations, hoping that enough people would show interest for a weekly game. As ABC News reports:
Back then, he had no idea whether anyone would actually show up but slowly word started to spread to places like the parking garage where Rose Henderson lives alone after losing her job six months ago.
Now, every Tuesday, she joins dozens of players on Carabello’s field.
[It’s] like you’re a part of a team and part of society again,” she said. “I just come here for the game and to have a good time. … I’m not trying to escape the situation I’m in, I’m just trying to make it the best that I can.”
Rose is not the only person benefiting from the softball games. Ricky Gessick, a former Marine who was wounded in Iraq, told ABC News that playing softball gave him a much needed break from the “stress and struggle of the street,” and that the game made him a “new person.” He said, “I turn into, just you know, ‘Super Rick,’ I guess. I put 125 percent in, no matter what. … I just clear my mind and think baseball. Everything else — all the homelessness, the soup lines, all the waiting, all that crap — that stays out there. … That’s why I love that.”
While it may seem like a softball game should matter much less than say finding a job, a permanent home, or even where the next meal is coming from, Carabello and his softball games also provide a much needed service. They give homeless members of the community the opportunity to participate in something that is purely for enjoyment and has nothing to do with the daily struggle that is just about survival.