Playing catch, one glove at a time



Vance Albitz might never make the major leagues.

But if he doesn’t make it to the show, he can always rest easy knowing he made a bigger impact on certain peoples’ lives than if he did crack a major-league roster.

How’s that, you ask?

Well, Albitz – all 5-foot-7 of him – has taken on an outsized mission. He’s collecting gloves and baseballs to send overseas to U.S. military members.

“I always wanted to do something, specifically, with the military,” Albitz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It wasn’t long ago, in November, when I was reading an article on-line and a soldier was asked what he would like people to send to him. He said a glove and a baseball. He wanted to play catch with another soldier.”

Based on that, Albitz started collecting. He threw in a few of his own gloves, and some of his minor-league teammates added some of their own. Word spread, and other ballplayers and even members of the general public have tossed in some mitts of their own.

At last count (in mid-January), Albitz had collected 228 gloves and had started the process of shipping them overseas, mostly to Afghanistan, because he thought that was the area where troops could most use a break.

Although the task seems Herculean, Albitz is used to overcoming the odds. An undrafted free agent, he signed with the Cardinals and after 600 minor-league plate appearances, he found himself playing second base for the Class AAA Memphis Cardinals in 2012.

He’ll start the upcoming season on the roster of the Class AA Springfield Cardinals, but regardless of where he plays, his focus is on helping the troops.

“I know when I was growing up, I always was running around trying to get people to play catch,” said Albitz. “If I was in (the troops’) situation, that’s exactly what I would want to do — have a glove and ball so I could play catch.”

Albitz is about a quarter of the way to his goal of collecting 1,000 gloves, and hundreds more were likely collected this weekend at the annual Cardinals Caravan in St. Louis.

According to the Post-Dispatch, feedback from the military for Albitz has become almost immediate. One email came from Kyle Kent, a soldier who said he had grown up about an hour from St. Louis.

Kent wrote Albitz, “I am a soldier currently deployed in Afghanistan and a diehard St. Louis Cardinals fan. I wanted to say thank you for your efforts to send such things to us troops over here in this home away from home. Coming back from a mission outside the wire and having the ability to wind down and play catch is a huge stress reliever.”

William Hill, a sailor aboard the aircraft carrier Stennis, wrote: “We received a box today with four baseball gloves and four baseballs because of your generosity. I cannot thank you enough for the small items that help make our time pass while deployed to the Persian Gulf. These small items help us enjoy some of the small things we like to do when home. The sailors aboard this ship have been deployed for more than 16 of the last 24 months, and now need to find ways to relieve stress due to deployments.

“We all thank you.”

For more information about the “Gloves 4 Troops” campaign or to make a donation, go to the website www.gloves4troops.com

 

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