By Marty Gitlin

There are no loftier endeavors than those helping the less fortunate.

Philadelphia Force second baseman Emily Friedman has always been aware of that, but she had to travel to Honduras for that view to be reinforced.

Friedman recently trekked to the impoverished Central America nation to help launch a youth baseball league. Nate Haugen, who befriended Friedman several years ago at the University of Wisconsin, and fellow Peace Corps representative Beth Piantidosi, started the project.

Haugen expected to pique enough interest in Honduran youths to form a team. Instead, about 60 children between the ages of 8-13 have become involved, resulting in a desire to start an entire league and a desperate need for baseball equipment.

Enter Friedman. She has scoured available sources to procure such necessities as gloves, bats, batting helmets and catcher’s equipment, spending a great deal of her own money in the process. But she reports that the Honduran kids are still greatly lacking in baseball essentials.

“I’d been keeping in touch with Nate occasionally,” Friedman explains. “A few months ago he sent me an email explaining the project and their need for baseball equipment and I said to myself, ‘I could really help out through the people and companies I know.’ So I started organizing an equipment drive and I got 10 dozen balls, 50 gloves and some other equipment donated.”

“We have enough of some equipment, like gloves and catcher’s equipment, but we need so much more. We need baseballs and money for other stuff, like field cleanup equipment and a backstop. All they have is one torn-up field with holes on it.”

Friedman, who will celebrate her 23rd birthday on June 1st, was intrigued enough by the project that she planned a trip to Honduras. A friend of the Philadelphia Force sprung for her plane fare and expenses. What she discovered upon her arrival opened her eyes and tugged at her heartstrings.

“There’s so much poverty there,” she says. “Honduras is the poorest country in Central America. A lot of areas have no running water. The idea of playing a recreational sport is not a priority, yet a few of the parents have really gotten involved. It was a great experience. Now I want to stay involved, but the credit really has to go to Nate and Beth.”

“I can’t tell you how much I’ve been inspired by what Nate and Beth are doing. Nate is an engineer for the Peace Corps, so he’s doing this during his free time. They’ve poured their hearts and souls into the project and have really been embraced by those kids. My goal is to coach college softball, but now I’ve considered taking time off from that goal and moving down (to Honduras) for a year to help out.”

Friedman, who excelled at both Wisconsin and the University of California at Berkeley, played for the Force last year. She was an all-Big Ten selection with the Badgers as a sophomore before leading California to a regional tournament berth in 2005. She is planning to attend medical school following her 2007 stint with the Force.

But not before she helps out some Honduran kids who want to play baseball.

If you are interested in contributing money and/or equipment to help in the Honduran youth baseball project, please contact Emily Friedman via email.

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