Glove of the game
By Samantha Carr
While walking through the Museum, I often catch a glimpse of some of the early 19th century baseball gloves on display and find it hard to imagine playing baseball with something that looks like a gardening glove.
But how about a cardboard box?
That was what sparked the Oriole Advocates, Inc. community service organization to begin the ‘Cardboard to Leather’ program that collects new and used baseball equipment and sends it to youth players in impoverished nations.
“We collect stuff all year long at the ballpark and our minor league parks and give it to kids in Venezuela and Nicaragua,” said Bob Harden, committee chairman of ‘C2L’ and volunteer for the Advocates. “It is our biggest program. It is not unusual for kids in these countries to be playing with cardboard gloves or broom sticks and tree branches for bats.”
Harden and past Advocates president John Ross visited Cooperstown on Wednesday for the 2010 Annual Symposium on Baseball and American Culture. During their visit they also took a moment to present Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson with a pin commemorating the organization’s 50th anniversary.
Established in 1960, the Oriole Advocates work “as an organization of volunteers joined together to promote and stimulate an interesting baseball at all levels, among youths of all ages.” Over 75 volunteers make up the non-profit group and foundation in cooperation with the city of Baltimore and the Baltimore Orioles Baseball Club, Inc.
In 2008, Harden and his wife accompanied a shipment of bats, balls, cleats, uniforms, catcher’s equipment, etc. to Nicaragua and got a chance to see the country’s passion for baseball.
“It is unbelievable the impact it has upon people,” said Harden. “You really have to see it for yourself. We stopped on the side of the road where we saw a bunch of kids playing a game and threw them a brand new ball. They had never seen a brand new baseball before. They all took turns smelling it and passed it around.”
Besides the ‘C2L’ program, the Oriole Advocates serve as the right arm to the Orioles’ Public Relations, Community Relations and Marketing departments, helping with promotional giveaways, have established the “Hit, Run & Fun League” for Baltimore city youth, sponsor the Champions League for physically and mentally challenged children, participate in food drives for local food banks with players’ wives and established the Orioles Hall of Fame along with a number of other charitable activities.
“In these Latin countries, baseball is not just a game for the kids – it is a way out,” Harden said. “And it is the way they teach values to their children.”
Samantha Carr is the manager of web and digital media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.