In 2017, The Play Ball Puerto Rico concept was created by Lawson Strenecky, a 13-year-old middle-grade student from Bardstown, Kentucky. After seeing the devastation of Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria and the following lack of government response Lawson initiated conversations with grandparents Eileen and Bernie Strenecky. Encouraged by their support, Lawson decided to take things into his own hands. After discovering that baseball was the heart and soul of the Puerto Rican population he felt that the best way to help the recovery was by empowering youth through baseball. Lawson began the program by collecting gently used baseball equipment and organizing a fundraising campaign.
His model has been field tested with great success in the community of Guanica, P.R. In May 2018, Lawson and his grandparents visited Puerto Rico and delivered multiple bags of boys and girls equipment. The visit generated considerable interest in both Puerto Rico and the continental United States. In a short time after their visit, the program blossomed, a Board of Directors was established and a 501 C-3 status was achieved. Followup deliveries have been completed.
Formal and informal connections have been established with organizations such as Louisville Slugger, the American Congress of Puerto Rico, American Amateur Baseball Congress (Stan Musial Division) under the direction of Jaime Torres, UNA-USA Puerto Rico headed by Ricardo Arzuaga Chaves, the National Baseball Academy (which works to prepare girls to succeed in sports and life), and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez.
The enormous task of transportation of subsequent supplies has been successful through the generous support of Deporte Salvador Colom.
A recent major development in the growth of the organization occurred when the United Nations Association of the United States agreed to partner with Play Ball Puerto Rico in the creation of “Fields For Dreams” program. Through this program affiliates from the United Nations Association, Rotary, and Play Ball Puerto Rico will collaborate in securing funding to refurbish baseball fields in communities of need. Two unique features of this program are the systems of reciprocity and sustainability. Players and community members must provide the labor for the projects and agree to participate in service projects that assist people in need in their communities.