Oriole Advocates to hold annual Cardboard to Leather collection at Saturday’s game

Root around in your closet, poke down to the bottom of the equipment bag, check out the trunk of your family car. Think of anywhere where you might have some wayward baseball equipment - bats, balls, gloves, uniforms, etc - because some kid far away might be able to use the gear that you no longer need.

Saturday marks the annual Cardboard to Leather collection at Camden Yards, when the Orioles and Oriole Advocates accept donations of new or gently used baseball and softball equipment. The Advocates refurbish it, pack it and ship it to where it’s most needed. This year, donations are bound for programs in Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and tsunami-ravaged Japan.

Monetary donations will be accepted, too. Just look for the Advocates at Camden Yards gates come Saturday - they’ll be the folks next to the packing bins that will hopefully be filled to the brim. Of all the good works this group of tireless baseball-minded volunteers do, Cardboard to Leather may be - literally - one of the farthest-reaching endeavors.

It began in 1992 when then-Advocates President Chuck Lippy ready a story in The Sun by John Eisenberg detailing a trip to the Dominican Republic where Eisenberg watched happy kids playing ball without the usual implements we’ve come to take for granted. A piece of tape-wrapped cardboard sufficed for a glove, for example, or a tree limb took the place of a bat. Lippy was struck by the fact that Americans probably threw away plenty of usable equipment that could easily be repaired and recycled, and a great community service project was born.

Lippy passed away several years ago, but the Advocates, Orioles and a host of like-minded folks have continued to see that the project lives on. A few years ago, members of the Advocates even accompanied donations to the baseball diamonds of Nicaragua, and were thrilled to see first-hand the impact of their good works. Face it, nothing beats the feeling you get when you see a kid reach out and take, perhaps for the first time, a new baseball in his hand. Many of these kids have never had new equipment to call their own, and your hand-me-downs would be welcome and put to good use.

Anyone making a contribution to the Cardboard to Leather effort will receive an autographed Orioles player card, while supplies last. A silent auction - featuring memorabilia from current O’s Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Nick Markakis - will take place on the main concourse at Gate E from when gates open until 8:30 p.m.

During a special pregame ceremony, Legg Mason will present the Oriole Advocates Charitable Foundation with a $20,000 donation to Cardboard to Leather. Baseball Tomorrow will give the group a $5,000 grant to be used toward the purchase of new equipment. And Michael Walter-Dillon, a third-grader from Chadds Ford, Pa., who plays in his local Ripken League, will be recognized for his efforts in collection used baseball and softball equipment for Cardboard to Leather.

So dig deep - wherever you might have something you no longer use that someone might derive some benefit from. It’ll make you feel good, and help out a worthy cause that continues to touch the lives of baseball-crazy kids from around the world.

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