It's almost fall cleaning time, and the Oriole Advocates are hoping you'll get an early start on your tidying up, helping them and some faraway kids in the process.
Sunday's Orioles game against the White Sox marks the annual Cardboard to Leather collection at Camden Yards. Members of the advocates will be stationed at the turnstiles to collect your gently used but usable baseball and softball equipment. So if you've got a spare ball, bat, glove or base collecting dust in a closet, feel free to tote it to the ballpark and drop it in the collection bins.
Don't have any equipment? Money is always welcome, too. With it, the Advocates can purchase equipment that isn't donated. Imagine a catcher's chest protector that doesn't have a pair of shinguards to go with it. You get the idea.
What happens to the equipment you no longer need (or the cash in your pocket)? The Advocates make repairs if necessary and ship gear to youth players in underprivileged countries like Afghanistan, Aruba, Belgrade, Belize, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. In short, it goes where it's most needed - and it makes a big impact.
The Advocates have been overseeing Cardboard to Leather collections since the early 1990s, when the late Chuck Lippy read a story by then-Baltimore Sun writer John Eisenberg that described how baseball-crazy kids in the Dominican Republic used tree limbs for bats and tape-wrapped cardboard to fashion makeshift gloves. Since starting the initiative, the Advocates have collected and distributed more than 80 tons of equipment to those in need. Baseball is universal; so is the smile on the face of a youngster who gets to choose his or her own glove, or a brand-new ball.
If you want a more complete description of Cardboard to Leather, check out this story I penned for MLB.com in 2008.
And start looking around your home for anything that might help the Advocates help some kids who love baseball.