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From the blue line to the base line

Defending the Base Line, a new branch of Defending the Blue Line, was announced for the first time May 18, during military appreciation night at a Hastings Hawks game. Submitted photo

Back in May, the audience at a Hastings Hawks baseball game got to see the earliest stages of a new venture for Defending the Blue Line. The Hastings-based organization held a soft launch of Defending the Base Line, focused on helping military families see their children participating in baseball.

DTBL launched in 2009 and provides equipment and assistance to military families who want to make sure their children can keep participating in hockey. Military families, especially those with a parent deployed, can often encounter financial and practical difficulties when it comes to keeping their kids involved in sports. The cost of hockey can be especially prohibitive because of all the gear required. To make sure the young athletes don’t have to give up the sport they love, DTBL steps in to provide free equipment, hockey camps, special events and financial assistance to those military families in need.

Now, DTBL is working on establishing the same service for families involved in baseball. The organization has been looking to expand their work into every sport, said DTBL president and founder Shane Hudella.

“We’ve had really good luck and success with hockey, so it made sense,” he said.

The push that started the baseball rolling was the initiative of a couple professional pitchers from the Washington Nationals, Craig Stammen and Ross Detwiler. While on a USO trip with Hudella, the two pitchers decided they wanted to get involved with DTBL. It was the perfect opportunity, Hudella said, since he and his volunteer staff were already setting the groundwork for Defending the Base Line.

Stammen volunteered to donate $35 for every strikeout he throws this season. The count is up to 45 so far. Detwiler is contributing on the equipment side, working out partnership ventures with baseball suppliers.

“The two of them are just kind of getting us off the ground,” Hudella said.

So far, baseball efforts are somewhat limited. While Defending the Blue Line operates in 16 markets nationwide, Defending the Base line, so far, is primarily in Washington, D.C., and Minnesota, with most of the giving being done in the D.C. area. Hudella is trying to see if anyone from the Twins is willing to help in the Minnesota market. A hard launch is being planned for next spring. By that time, it should be pretty big here, he said.

The slow start is just what DTBL planned. Over the rest of this year, Defending the Base Line will continue to grow with the help of volunteers and donors, Hudella said. Right now, they primarily need financial help. Anyone who would like to contribute can donate online at Donations of gently used baseball equipment will also be accepted.

Defending the Base Line is just the next step on a much longer path Hudella has envisioned. Ultimately, he’d like DTBL to provide equipment and assistance for every sport.

“It’s definitely a mission that we want to achieve, and I know we will,” he said.

That said, it’s a goal that takes a lot of planning and a lot of time. He figures DTBL will introduce support for a new sport about every two years. Next on the list after baseball is football (Defending the Goal Line), with a soft launch expected next fall and a hard launch in 2015.

It’s a lot of work, but Hudella has lots of help. He gives credit to the more than 50 volunteers who help him.

“I’ve got a really great team of volunteers who help out in various capacities,” he said.

DTBL’s main hub of operations is located in Hastings, at 1206 North Frontage Road, Suite B. More information about Defending the Blue Line is available at More on Defending the Base Line is available at