Hitting Home Runs and Lending Helping Hands

by | Feb 2024

HAGEN ALLRED, originally from Staunton, entered Liberty University’s sports management program with a dream. The program required an internship with 400 hours of work experience. Lynchburg’s minor league baseball team, the Hillcats, offered him a ticket operations internship, which he happily accepted. Then circumstances, as they often do, changed. 

“Halfway through that season,” Allred remembers, “several full-time staff members quit. Our offices were already extremely small. We were already one of the smallest front offices in minor league baseball. That hurt. And so our president at the time pulled me into his office and said, ‘Hey, I need you to step up.’” 

The 400-hour internship transformed into a full-time position. Once the October 2022 season ended, Allred became the Hillcats’ senior account executive. 

Currently the director of sales for the Hillcats, Allred is immersed in the Community Champions program. Liberty Mountain Medical Group sponsors the program. According to the MLB’s website, the program’s initiative is to “recognize youth groups who have shown exceptional levels of hard work, determination, leadership, and sportsmanship.” The children are provided free tickets and recognized for their accomplishments on the field. 

“I called over 50 youth organizations in Lynchburg and the surrounding area and told them, ‘This [is] completely sponsored. If you sign up, we’ll honor you on the field.’ That’s one of the biggest reasons I’m still here and working for the Hillcats. We serve each other really well, and we love each other really well.”

Carefully choosing which groups will be honored can be daunting, as many organizations are deserving. Luckily, there is a system in place.

“I came across the SHARE Greater Lynchburg [of the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation] website, which has around 175 nonprofits, giving you details of who is in charge and [how to reach them]. I started really thinking about what we could do with the nonprofits. There are so many groups that [request] donations. And sometimes it’s hard — we really want to be able to do all that. We’re heavily involved in our community.”

The procedure is to pair with various nonprofits and coordinate fundraisers, bettering the community one partnership at a time. Organizations sell tickets to the Hillcats’ games and get plenty in return.

Nonprofits not only get to attend games, but they also benefit from a comprehensive marketing campaign created for them. They design the package with enjoyable incentives to motivate groups to sell as many game tickets as possible. For instance, last year, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library sold more than 450 tickets, which resulted in their organization making around $2,000. Typically, two to three nonprofits are invited for each game, and with the Hillcats having a total of 66 games, there are plenty of opportunities for participation and fundraising. 

Last year, the Community Champions program donated $40,000 in revenue. With its fun-filled, popcorn-scented atmosphere, baseball games are the most natural venue for fundraising, leading the program to succeed. Allred, though, is not unaware of the Hillcats’ underlying issues.

“A lot of college-aged people have no idea that we exist.”

Allred admits that even he was unaware of the team’s presence in the community before the program began. 

“I went to Liberty, and until I applied for the internship here and had my interview, I had driven past this stadium three or four times and just never knew what it was. I thought it was a football field, which is what a lot of people think.”

To Allred, this just means there is room for growth and expansion, starting with the fact that Lynchburg has rallied around the Community Champions program. 

The Lynchburg community is brimming with citizens and organizations eager to make a lasting impact.

When the winds of change blow ferociously, stand tall in the face of it. You never know who may end up standing by your side. GN

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