Feb 21, 2013, 10:26 AM EDT
In between workouts and enjoying an offseason at his parents’ home in Torrance, Calif., Vance Albitz, a minor leaguer in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, stumbled upon an article that sparked a brilliant idea.
Albitz read about a soldier who was asked what he wanted people to send him overseas.
The soldier’s response? Baseball gloves and a ball, so he and another comrade could play catch.
Combining his love of America’s pastime and his passion for those defending our country, the 25-year-old ballplayer immediately thought of a plan. He launched Gloves4Troops.com, with the goal of sending 1,000 gloves to troops across the globe, before reporting to spring training on Feb. 23.
Led by former Irish infielder and first-year assistant coach Eddie Smith (’06), the Notre Dame baseball team is lending a hand to Albitz’s noble efforts.
“I got to know [Albitz] a little bit last year. He worked out with us when I was at Santa Clara. He’d come out for batting practice,” Smith said.
In late January, Rick Reilly wrote about Albitz’s project for an article on ESPN.com.
For someone that has been a long-time reader of his work, this is one of those classic Reilly columns – the type of feel-good story that just makes you stop, think, and smile, reminding you of all that’s good in sports.
Reilly challenged readers, vowing to match the first $1,000 in donations. In just a few days, Albitz had received $27,000, with several thousand more on the way.
Shortly thereafter, the Irish decided to get involved.
“[Notre Dame assistant equipment manager] Joe Nagle sent us the article and said, ‘Hey, is this something you guys would be interested in?’ We certainly were,” Smith said.
“We sent out an email to the players and said, ‘Hey, if you have an extra glove laying around, let’s make sure to get it to these people.’ I can’t imagine a better way to put an old glove to use.”
Smith mailed the first shipment, a collection of six gloves, on Wednesday, and said the team plans to send another box in a couple weeks. In the meantime, several players are also having their parents send gloves from home, directly to California.
As of this morning, Albitz has collected 1,487 gloves, nearly 50% more than his original goal. So far, one of the biggest challenges has been finding space to store everything. After all, the Albitz family’s garage is running out of space.
While the MLB hopeful prepares to leave for spring training, he has several friends who will pitch in, hoping to continue to lead the operation out of their old high school cafeteria.
Whether it’s a glove, a ball or just a letter to a soldier, anyone is welcome to make a donation (You can find Albitz’s address in the Reilly article). It’s a simple gesture, but it’s truly touching to read about the impact it has had on some of the brave men and women defending our nation.
As SPC Dwight Gerhart wrote in an e-mail to Albitz, “You made our day when we got the gloves. We will be playing ball tomorrow afternoon thanks to you. I am a die-hard Red Sox fan. I wish they would pick up a guy like you.”
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