VADNAIS HEIGHTS — Born out of the idea that any child should be able to play sports regardless of their family’s financial stability, The JP4 Foundation began in 2016 on the back of the well-known Minnesota Blizzard Baseball program.
Despite similar names, The JP4 Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization located in Vadnais Heights that used the Blizzard Baseball brand to get instantly recognized in order to grow.
Jeff Huth, a former Minnesota Blizzard Baseball player and high school English teacher, heeded the call to head up The JP4 Foundation after his former coach Adam Barta — founder of Minnesota Baseball Academy, known now as Blizzard Baseball Academy — asked him to leave his dream job and become director of the foundation.
There are five core ideas that each player is expected to live and play by, otherwise known as the Blizzard Big 5: Acceptance of responsibility, loyalty, humility and class, synergism and kaizen, a Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement.
“What I like more about baseball is kinda the intricate life lessons that baseball offers over just the competition in the sport,” Huth said. “So, (it’s) using baseball as a vehicle to teach life lessons to kids that need it and kids that at this age, regardless of how good they are, don’t always listen to their parents all the time.”
Now, at 27 years of age, Huth uses what he learned as an English teacher to help further develop youth in the program.
“We’re devoted to empowering baseball players to be outstanding human beings, and we really believe that all baseball players — all people — have the tools inside of them to be positive community members. So how can we help them refine and relish those?” Huth said.
In 2015, John “Johnny” Price IV, a star player in the Minnesota Blizzard Baseball program and Division I recruit, was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 18.
“Johnny was a Division I player through and through,” Huth said, “but what was cooler was he was an even better person … Johnny was everyone’s best friend.”
According to Huth and Barta, Price was a role model of a player who believed that everyone should have a chance to play baseball regardless of their situation. It was those ideas that helped shape The JP4 Foundation.
“To me, it means relationships,” Barta said. “It means helping kids out that are in need — whether it’s from a financial standpoint, moral support, (or) just teaching kids the values that we grew up on.”
With the goal of helping families in financial hardship, the foundation will offer the Johnny Price Memorial College Scholarship. The scholarship will be awarded to support a student-athlete who exemplifies the qualities that Price had.
“From a financial standpoint, it means helping kids out who otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to play baseball,” Barta said. “We’re trying to help kids out who can’t afford it. Money should never, will never, and has never gotten in the way of a kid playing in our program.”
Cole Albers, Price’s former teammate and recipient of this year’s scholarship, spoke of what it meant to be a part of the Minnesota Blizzard Baseball program and JP4 Foundation.
“It means the world,” Albers said. “The first word that comes to my mind is ‘family’. Everybody’s out here for each other.”
Albers also reflected on what it was like to be Price’s teammate.
“He was kinda the life of the program,” Albers said. “I remember on the bus rides he was always cracking jokes … he made it easy to come to the field for 8 a.m. games.”
As The JP4 Foundation grows, Huth hopes to see it expand beyond baseball and reach as many kids in need of financial assistance as possible.
“The JP4 Foundation is an avenue not just for kids that only play for the Minnesota Blizzard; it’s not just a top-tier thing,” Huth said. “If there’s a kid in White Bear Lake that said, ‘Hey, I really want to play association ball, but we just don’t have the means,’ the foundation wants to be there to help them.”
For more information on The JP4 Foundation and charity events they’ll be hosting, visit jp4foundation.org.
The next event will be the Johnny Price IV Memorial Golf Tournament on Monday, Aug. 21, at Brackett’s Crossing Country Club in Lakeville.
By Ryan DePauw/News Intern