Royals raise funds, collect gear for kids
Weekend Equipment Drive benefits local youth centers
KANSAS CITY -- David DeJesus can tell you all about the first glove he ever owned.
He can tell you that it's still sitting in his parents' garage, that he used to sleep with it, that he used to put a ball inside and wrap a rubber band around it to break it in, and that when it finally wore out, he asked his dad to have it restrung.
"That was your life," said DeJesus, the Royals left fielder. "You wanted to use that glove non-stop for years."
DeJesus' dad is a baseball man, and he always made sure his kids had the best equipment.
DeJesus knows how important equipment is and how special it can make a kid feel.
That's one reason why DeJesus co-chaired the fifth annual Royals Equipment Drive during the weekend series against Detroit. Volunteers, including many Royals wives, collected new and used baseball and softball equipment on Saturday and Sunday with all proceeds going to the Guadalupe Centers' youth baseball program. And on behalf of the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, a program started by Major League Baseball to promote the growth of youth baseball, DeJesus and co-chairman Ron Mahay presented a $5,000 check to Guadalupe Centers, Inc. before Friday's game.
DeJesus is the spokesperson for the Guadalupe Centers of Kansas City, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals in the Latino communities of Greater Kansas City. Rick Olivares is the director of the youth baseball program at the Guadalupe Centers of Kansas City. He's seen the effect that a glove or a bat can have on a kid.
"Every year, we get equipment that is truly, truly valuable," Olivares said. "In baseball, you go out and you want to have your own glove. It's yours and you want to play with it. This money really is a blessing. We can get decent uniforms, the kids are proud to have these uniforms."
Last year, Major League Baseball collected more than 20,000 pieces of equipment at stadiums across the country, including leather gloves, bats and perhaps a new memory for some young baseball player.
Mahay has his own story about his treasured childhood equipment.
"As a kid, I always got caught up in what the pros were wearing, like batting gloves," Mahay said. "And we went to Sportmart and we picked out a glove that worked for us. It wasn't name brand stuff, not like the pros were wearing, but what worked for me. We just used it until it broke or had a hole in it."
But like DeJesus, Mahay always had equipment, so he realizes how much it can mean to kids who don't have it. So before Friday's game, Mahay and DeJesus joined volunteers on the Kauffman Stadium concourse and helped collect equipment.
"That actually went very well and I think the fans were kind of shocked like, 'What are you doing out here?'" Mahay said. "In that sense, it was kind of cool. They got to see us up close and talk to us."
Nowadays, the gloves in DeJesus' locker look brand new, the bats are shiny, and his spikes are polished. But as he sits surrounded by nothing but Major League equipment, he can remember when all he cared about was that glove that's still sitting in his parents' garage.
"This drive is big," DeJesus said, "because there's a lot of kids out there who can't afford to get new bats -- anything we can do to help them and give them the opportunity to go out there and feel like they're a Major Leaguer."
Rustin Dodd is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.