Amidst the media uproars of fiscal cliffs, out-of-wedlock celebrity pregnancies, and fake girlfriends here in the states (you know, the important stuff), we often lose sight of the awesome shit going on domestically and around the globe. Take this incredible piece by ESPN’s Rick Reilly, which reveres an American minor league baseball player with an admiration for the U.S. military few can match — a young big league-aspiring shortstop who gets the bigger picture, and gets it in a big, honorable way.
Vance Albitz, 24, a minor league shortstop in the St. Louis Cardinals organization, gathers donated, or otherwise unwanted, baseball gloves and balls and ships them to troops overseas to bring a little piece of joy — and America’s pastime — into their highly stressful, dangerous, selfless lives.
The Afghanistan snow covered the tops of his boots the day U.S. Army Specialist Shaun Pelt, a medic, ripped opened a box from the States and found four baseball gloves and four balls.
“All of a sudden,” Pelt writes, “it was Christmas morning.”
He and his roommate immediately went out in front of the latrine trailers, in 20-degree weather, and played frozen-fingered catch for an hour, grinning like 8-year-olds.
There is just something about a little pitch-and-catch in the Afghan mountains among our nation’s bravest that sits really well with me. In an article Albitz read, a soldier, while abroad, mentioned some things he wished he could enjoy from back home were “two gloves and a baseball.” He sprung into action.
“I read where the soldiers over there get lonely and bored,” says Albitz, who spent time with the Memphis Redbirds (Triple-A) last season. “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.”
Albitz has sent nearly 300 baseball gloves this offseason with the goal of 1,000 by “the time he reports to Cardinals spring training on Feb. 23.” As a meagerly compensated minor leaguer, he won’t be able to do it alone — he needs help, and his website is in place to streamline the donation process. Visit Gloves4Troops.com to donate gloves, baseballs, or money.
And a parting note from Vance Albitz:
What tickles Albitz the most is the idea of soldiers 7,000 miles away, in a place so foreign and forbidding, playing the most American game of all. Kicks the hell out of camel racing.
It sure as shit does.
The American G.I. and the game of baseball. Beautiful.
[H/T to RickyRubibro]
Images via ESPN