Vance Albitz, a 24-year-old minor league shortstop in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization, showed his support for American soldiers abroad by sending them baseball gloves and balls.
“I read where the soldiers over there get lonely and bored,” Albitz said to ESPN last week. Thinking of how he played with the Memphis Red-Birds last season, he said, ”I feel that way sometimes, you know? New town, new team all the time. And I’m just playing baseball. These guys are putting their lives on the line for us. I just thought somebody ought to thank them for it.”
The idea came to Albitz when he read an article in which a soldier was asked what he would most like to have sent to him and answered, “Two gloves and a ball."
Out of his parents’ garage in Torrence, Calif. Ablitz boxes the gloves after his dad oil them and fixes the strings. It’s not easy task, getting the donated gloves and then getting the money to ship them, which is about $25 per box. That’s not stopping Albitz from trying to reach a total of 1,000 gloves sent before he begins training for the Cardinals on February 23. “Then I’ve really got to stop,” he said.
What might keep Albitz’s nose to the dirt the most are the emails he receives from the troops who have received their gloves. A couple read:
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.
– SPC Dwight Gerhart
Coming back from a mission outside the wire and having the ability to wind down and play catch is a huge stress reliever.
– Kyle Kent, U.S. Army Cavalry
When U.S. Army Specialist Shaun Pelt ripped open a box to find four gloves and four baseballs inside, he told ESPN, “All of a sudden, it was like Christmas again.”
To help get more gloves out to the troops, Albitz set up a website called Gloves 4 Troops where people can donate their own gloves.
On the site is a simple 3-step process:
“Seems like every glove comes with a story,” Albitz said. One man included a note with his donation:
This is my dad’s super-old glove. I took it to Cooperstown after he died and played catch outside the museum. Then I went to his grave and said, Well, Dad, you never got to Cooperstown, but your glove did.”
A Vietnam veteran wrote to Albitz saying he would have loved to have gotten a couple gloves while fighting abroad. “Not just for the games of catch,” he said, but “just to know people cared about us. We didn’t think anybody cared.”
Using even his own money, Albitz is determined to show the men and women in arms that people care.
According to Gloves 4 Troops, there are 20 days left for people to donate gloves and baseballs before Albitz’s training begins. However, once the 2013 baseball season ends, he will resume taking donations.