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Spokane Indians win national award for community service at fall meetings

Spokane Indians' pitcher Blake Adams, originally from Springdale, Arkansas, delivers a pitch to the Vancouver Canadians July 18 at Avista Stadium in Spokane.  (Jesse Tinsley/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

From staff reports

The Spokane Indians were honored Tuesday at professional baseball’s fall meetings with the 2023 CommUNITY Champion Award in recognition of the team’s ongoing commitment to the Spokane region.

“As the community’s baseball team since 1903, we’re proud to serve our entire area with several community campaigns, initiatives and events,” said Otto Klein, Spokane Indians senior vice president. “We’re honored to call Spokane home, and committed to improving our community for years to come.”

The Indians have acknowledged the importance of respect and inclusion with the team’s namesake, the Spokane Tribe of Indians, setting an example for respectful relationships with Native communities in sports.

The team’s efforts to collaborate with the tribe include an annual Native Culture Day at Avista Stadium, which in 2023 included a ceremonial first pitch by Junior Miss Spokane and Spokane Tribal Member, Arawyn Dillon, and the singing of the national snthem by Spokane Tribal member Dakota Moses, who performed the song in Salish.

In 2022, the team and tribe worked together to develop an official land acknowledgment (believed to be the first of its kind in minor league baseball), recognizing that Avista Stadium resides on the unceded homeland of the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and in 2023, a permanent marker featuring this land acknowledgment was installed just outside the main gates in the Hall of Fame plaza.

The club also honors those local roots on the field as its home jerseys have Spokane written in Salish (Sp’q’n’i), and after the Spokane Tribe’s own Wellpinit boys basketball team won its first State 1B championship, each player received an Indians jersey and participated in a celebratory pregame ceremony at Avista Stadium.

In addition to the CommUNITY Award, the Spokane Indians were also finalists for:

  • Organization of the Year: After winning the award in 2021, the Indians were again recognized for their overall organizational excellence.
  • Best Community Program/Event: Through the Community Fields Project, the Spokane Indians and partners have pledged to restore a minimum of one baseball/softball field in the Spokane region each year, including five fields at Plantes Ferry in 2023.
  • Rising Star Award: A member of the Indians front office since 2021, Emily Shields was recognized for her work in spearheading the team’s community campaigns.