So when they heard about the Baseball Tomorrow Fund's new and used equipment drive before Friday night's Rangers-Angels game at Ameriquest Field, there was only one thing for them to do. The North Richland Hills couple went right to the store, bought a package of new baseballs and softballs and dropped them in the collection box outside the first-base entrance of the ballpark.
"It's just doing the right thing for the kids," Joe Lane explained. "Somebody's got to show these kids something, and baseball is a good direction for them to be going. There's a whole lot worse places they can be."
The Lanes' contribution was among 57 items donated in Friday's drive. The items will go to the Arlington Life Shelter, a facility for the homeless. The shelter also received a $5,000 grant from the Baseball Tomorrow Fund, a $10 million joint initiative of Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, to purchase more new equipment.
The Rangers' drive is one of 25 operated this year by BTF, which began the program with 19 events last season. BTF Executive Director Cathy Bradley said while the numbers have not been totaled, the items collected nationwide in 2006 will far exceed last year's total of 4,000.
In addition, BTF will give a total of $125,000 in grants, and Bradley said about $25,000 more has been raised in cash donations to the organizations.
"This is still a new initiative, so our goal is to increase club participation every year and maybe next year have all the clubs participate," Bradley said. "There are a couple [teams] we know are interested for next year, and a couple we need to work on."
Although many teams have chosen Little Leagues or similar organizations to receive the donated equipment, the Rangers are working with the Arlington Life Shelter.
Krista Moffet, the shelter's volunteer special events coordinator, said the equipment would be a huge benefit to the shelter's 70-75 residents, about half of whom are children or teenagers.
"All the kids at the shelter will be able to check these out on the weekends or whenever," Moffet said. "We have a transitional team that works with people who are transitioning out of the shelter and into housing, and we'll be able to deliver this equipment to them as well. We'll really be able to benefit from this.
"We always have a lot of kids. We're seeing a lot of families at the shelter right now. Families are a big trend."
Moffet said many fans told the shelter volunteers manning the collection tables that they didn't know about the drive and asked if they would be back Saturday. When told they wouldn't, the fans said they would instead bring baseball and softball items directly to the shelter.
"This is our first time doing this, so we're just grateful for anything we get," Moffet said. "This is really great for us."
Rangers rookie second baseman Ian Kinsler, the honorary chairman of the drive, said he would look into having the team donate extra equipment to the shelter as well.
"Helping kids play ball wherever they are is something I very much want to do," he said. "Just getting kids involved in the game is something that's close to me."
Andy Friedlander is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.