7/2/2013 10:00 A.M. ET
Fan walking across UK to spread game to kids in Brazil
Seattle native Perry aims to help baseball grow by giving equipment to less fortunate
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Now Will Perry knows how Joba Chamberlain feels.
Perry, a 28-year-old student from the Seattle area who is walking 192 miles across the United Kingdom to raise money for baseball in Brazil through a philanthropic organization called Pitch in For Baseball, has a few days left in his journey. He already has seen up close what it must have been like for the Yankees reliever to experience what happened in Game 2 of the 2007 American League Division Series in Cleveland.
Remember that night, when Chamberlain was attacked by relentless little bugs called midges and insect repellent didn't even do the trick? Well, check out what happened to Perry on the first day of his journey, which he hopes will raise $5,000 and serve as part of his dissertation for his master's degree in conflict resolution.
Perry, who will return to the Seattle area soon after his journey is complete on Thursday, logged 17 miles in the first of his 13 days of walking, and he was ready to set up camp near the shores of Ennerdale Water, the most westerly lake in the Lake District National Park of Cumbria, England.
That's when the Joba-style fun began.
"This attempt was foiled every time I put down my pack, began blowing up my Therm-a-rest sleeping pad, unrolled my sleeping bag and set up my bivy bag," Perry wrote in an email from the trail.
"I was attacked my armies of unrelenting, ravenous midges [the worst kind of mosquito]. My insect repellant was no match for them. It wasn't so bad when I was moving, but if I stopped for more than 15 seconds, they swarmed, covering my arms, legs, face [despite my entire body, head to toe, being covered].
"I put on my cold-weather face mask in hopes that would keep them off my face. That seemed to make it worse. With each attack, I retreated further and further from the lake. By the fifth and final attempt, I was off on some hillside, running with my half-inflated Therm-a-rest and rolled-out sleeping bag."
Perry hardly slept, but he moved on in pursuit of a goal inspired by his love of baseball. Perry's walk began June 24 on the West Coast of England at St. Bees by the Irish Sea. It will end at Robin Hood's Bay on the North Sea. Perry trained for the journey for three months.
It's all a part of a broad vision Perry believes in and has seen firsthand: that sports has the power to forge communities and bring about peace. Perry witnessed it while living in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and volunteering in slums. He saw Japanese people playing baseball in Brazil and wondered if and when the game might catch on with the natives of the South American country. He also saw a profound dearth of baseball equipment for Brazilian kids and began to think about ways to augment the situation.
In the course of his studies, Perry read about how baseball helped foster reconciliation between the United States and Japan following World War II, and Major League Baseball's assistance with Japanese tsunami relief. For a guy who played high school baseball and into college, coached Little League while living in Washington, D.C., and can't wait to get back home to root on his Mariners, Perry and Pitch in For Baseball, the central organization for the collection and redistribution of new and gently used youth baseball and softball equipment to underserved communities around the world, was a natural pairing.
And for the next few days, he'll be dotting the map of England with a Mariners cap on his head and a baseball in his hand. He's been writing the distances he walks on that ball every day. It's helping to keep him going as his trek nears completion.
Perry emailed during the second week of the trip to mention a day when he was walking through England's Lake District and encountered a man who saw Perry's cap and asked if he was a Mariners fan.
"A big smile came to my face as I thought to myself, 'Finally, after one year of living in the U.K., I can finally talk baseball with someone who cares!'" Perry wrote.
The two swapped baseball stories as they marched on.
"As it turned out, the man was from Vancouver, B.C., and saw 'The Double,' when [former Mariners designated hitter] Edgar [Martinez] hit the game-winning double to score [Ken] Griffey [Jr.] and win the '95 ALDS," Perry wrote.
"As a kid, watching that moment on television was one of the most memorable and impactful events of my life. It solidified my love affair with baseball.
"He saw the baseball hanging from my rucksack and asked what it had written on it. I showed him what I had written -- 'Coast to Coast for Brazilian Baseball' -- and explained that I was walking to raise enough funds to equip an entire underserved community in Brazil with baseball gear [bats, gloves, balls, catcher's gear, the works].
"Being a baseball guy himself, he got really excited about the cause and gave me a few pounds to help glove a young player in Brazil. It was refreshing to talk baseball again."
There have been lonely moments, to be sure. Perry said he has gone miles and miles while observing the rituals of wandering countryside sheep, and his wife is back in the States and he's not getting great cell phone reception in the parkland.
"The sheep scatter any time I am within 10 yards, with the exception being one who had the audacity to stomp one of his hooves at me and lower his head, as if to charge," Perry wrote.
"He didn't, and backed off when I starting barking like a dog and chasing after him. Sheep and midges … if only I had someone to play baseball with."
That will happen soon enough, and if Perry has anything to do with it, it will happen more and more in Brazil and other parts of the world as the game continues to grow globally.
"Sports can be used for the development of peace," Perry said before he set off.
"That's what I've been learning about and that's what this is about. I just want to do my little part to help make it happen."