New York teens make big contribution to Detroit PAL

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Nathan Murray, left, and Max Murray, center, pose for a photo with Max Scherzer during the boys'  trip to Detroit last summer.

Dozens of kids in the Detroit Police Athletic League have new gloves, bats, cleats and uniforms.

And over the weekend, one team, the PAL Nationals, even got to take a trip they'll likely never to forget.

It's all thanks to the selflessness of two New York City teen-agers who just wanted to do something different -- and meaningful -- for their Bar Mitzvah.

"It's really kind of amazing," said Amy Levine Murray, the mother of Max and Nathan Murray, the brothers who made the dreams come true for their Detroit peers.

The effort began a little more than two years ago when Max Murray, now 15, began thinking about a project for his Bar Mitzvah. He liked baseball, and he liked Detroit -- thanks to his grandfather, a big Hank Greenberg fan -- so he did a Google search.

And, really, the rest is history.

Max Murray set up multiple fundraising campaigns, including on Amazon and Facebook, and the donations started pouring in, for new baseball equipment to be donated to the Detroit PAL, a nonprofit that does so much good for inner-city kids -- but where money is always tight.

Then, last summer, the Murrays took a trip to Detroit, where they also took part in then-Tiger Max Scherzer's pitching clinic in Detroit and struck up a conversation with Officer Marcus Norwood, a coach for Detroit PAL.

It was then that the idea was floated about the PAL Nationals -- the beneficiaries of most of the donated equipment -- making a trip to New York to play a game.

It just so happened around that time, Nathan Murray, now 13, was getting set for his Bar Mitzvah. And he wanted to keep his brother's efforts alive -- so he, too, focused on Detroit PAL.

"He was like, 'Well, if it ain't broke, why fix it?'" their mother said.

The PAL Nationals, wearing their new uniforms and bringing their new equipment made possible by the Murray boys, made the trip to New York over the weekend, and played the West Side Little League Hawks in Manhattan.

The game drew quite a crowd, and plenty of media attention, too. After all, it's not too often you see two kids from New York trying their darndest to do good for kids several states away, kids they'd never met.

"This is genuine charity at its best," said Russ Russell, chief advancement officer at PAL.

The Detroit PAL Nationals are pictured with the West Side Little League Hawks after their game in Manhattan.

All right, so why Detroit?

Here's the back story: Ernest Kohn grew up in Harlem, and being Jewish, he became a fan of Greenberg, the legendary Tigers slugger -- and, thus, he became a big fan of the Tigers. For years and years, he'd take his family, including his son, Jerry, to Detroit to see the Tigers play, usually three or four games a summer. And the last several years, Jerry, who married Amy, has kept that tradition alive with his own family, including stepsons Max and Nathan Murray.

The brothers now are big Tigers fans.

Ernest Kohn passed away a couple months ago, before the big game Saturday.

"It's kind of like his legacy," Amy Levine Murray said. "If you could've felt the energy at the ballpark when they were playing, it was unbelievable. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.

"It was really kind of amazing."

As you can imagine, the folks at PAL were touched.

"Two kids from New York chose our kids at Detroit PAL to give back," Russell said. "And better yet, they chose to honor their grandfather's love of the Detroit Tigers and his favorite player, Hank Greenberg, to give our kids the tools they needed to play competitively this summer."