From games during the dust bowl to all women teams during the war, baseball has a history of providing hope for Americans. This year the "American Pastime" is providing hope in a new way, raising money for Vermont farmers devastated by the remnant rains of Hurricane Irene.
Going to Bat for Vermont, an initiative started by brothers Sam Lincoln, a Vermont farmer, and Buster Olney, a baseball reporter for ESPN, is uniting baseball teams from across the country to give aid to those in need. An ordinary phone call was the beginning of something extraordinary.
One afternoon Olney was driving back from Fenway Park on the phone with his brother talking about the damage their neighbors suffered in the storm’s wake. The two began to brainstorm fundraising ideas to help their community, but decided to leave it for further discussion. During the same drive home from Boston, Olney was "talking baseball" with Brian Cashman, general manager of the New York Yankees, when Going to Bat for Vermont was born.
During their phone conversation, Cashman helped spur Olney’s already churning mind. He said he had seen the pictures of the storm damage on Olney’s daily ESPN column and couldn’t believe no one was talking about the damage. Then he told Olney they should start a fundraiser.
"He said if you guys [Lincoln and Olney] do something up there I’ll come up for the night and we can do some type of baseball roundtable fundraiser," Olney says. "When you’ve got the general manager of the Yankees willing to kick it off and come up to help for a night, you’ve got a good start."
Olney called Lincoln and the two began planning. Shortly after Cashman offered to help, support came pouring in from the baseball community nearly as fast as Irene’s rushing waters. Theo Epstein, general manager of the Chicago Cubs, willfully accepted Olney’s offer to participate as did Neal Hunnington, general manager of the Pirates, who grew up on a farm in New Hampshire. Olney says that the support from every corner of Major League Baseball is overwhelming, but the help didn’t stop there. Lincoln, who still farms in near Randolph Center, VT, rallied New England’s agriculture community to pitch in as well.
On November 12, 2011 the event portion of Batting for Vermont will happen. Baseball coaches, players and fans will gather with farmers and community leaders in the small town of Randolph Center, VT for an evening of food, fun and sports, all benefiting their neighbors and friends.
"This event is bringing money in from all corners of the country, it’s not putting pressure on only local people," says Lincoln.
People from ocean to ocean have an opportunity to support Vermont farmers as well through an online auction including everything from a year’s supply of milk to autographed bats and even monster seats at Fenway Park with Peter Gammons. There are autographed jerseys by several of the nation’s favorite players and even one signed by Brad Pitt. You could buy a golf game with Michael Phelps, a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Party, or a Wrigley Field Dream Day. You can even take over the General Manager’s Suite at Yankees Stadium for a night.
All of the proceeds from the online auction and ticket sales from the Nov. 12 event benefit the Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund.