WEST RIDGE — West Ridge’s best baseball players could be taking a “once-in-a-lifetime” trip to the mecca of baseball — and they might need beer to help.
To help with fundraising to pay the cost of the trip, that is.
Sketchbook Brewing and the Warren Park Youth Baseball League have teamed up to serve a special “Road Trip IPA” exclusively at Candlelite restaurant from now until May to help raise money for the trip.
“It’s kind of a really cool, once-in-a-lifetime trip for these kids,” said Jerry Kerns, a coach, parent and baseball league board member. “Especially kids from the Midwest and Chicago, to go to a place far away to play teams from California, New York and the East Coast and South.”
Kerns and another coach will lead a team of a dozen 12-year-olds on a road trip to the Cooperstown All Star Village in Cooperstown, N.Y. — a program that includes visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame, bunking together as a team, playing in a tournament with players from around the country and seeing the world beyond Chicago.
It’s a way for the Warren Park Warriors — an All-Star roster that plays in Warren Park while also traveling to other parts of the city and suburbs — to see what it would be like to be a part of the “quintessential baseball experience” akin to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., shown on ESPN.
“Who knows what their future baseball career is going to be like? And who knows what happens? But this will be something they will always remember for sure,” Kerns said.
Families were asked to commit last year and are invited to come along as well and rent nearby houses during the trip.
With players hailing mostly from Far North Side neighborhoods like West Ridge, Rogers Park and Edgewater, Kerns said what families can afford varies across the spectrum.
A hefty price tag of about $1,000 per player/family, or $14,000 to $15,000 total, meant fundraising to reach at least half of the expected total expenses was crucial, the coach said.
A dollar from each pint, or $4 from each pitcher, will go toward the team’s goal to raise at least $8,000 to $9,000, if not more, by the time of the weeklong trip in early August.
Players will hold a barbecue, wash cars and sell pizzas door-to-door to raise money.
Kerns said it was important for the players to feel like they’ve earned the the trip through fundraising — albeit not when it comes to the beer.
“We thought it’s really important that they have a stake in raising money too, not just the parents doing it,” he said. “We want them feeling like they’re earning this trip, and they’re working for it.”
When it came time to think of creative ways to raise money, Kerns said he wanted to do something similar to the Hopleaf’s “Kegs for Kids” annual fundraiser for Peirce Elementary School.
With that in mind, it was a “no-brainer” to involve the Candlelite — a neighborhood staple and longtime supporter of baseball at Warren Park.
Candlelite owner Pat Fowler told Kerns he had a good relationship with Evanston’s Sketchbook Brewery, who ultimately decided to create a unique IPA speaking to the team’s goals that would be sold only at the West Ridge tavern, at 7452 N. Western Ave.
“It’s kind of the perfect thing,” Kerns said. “You have the Candlelite, an establishment that’s been a huge supporter of Warren Park baseball, stepping up to do this, and then getting a local brewery just up the road in Evanston pitch in to do this fantastic trip — it really worked out great. It kind of blew me away.”