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Berea baseball teams up to build community

The Berea College baseball program is partnering with Dave Audia (class of '69) to provide gloves to underprivileged youth around the world.

BC Baseball team members with Audia (courtesy of Surgance)

This fall, Berea College baseball is bringing more to the plate than just bats and baseballs. The Berea baseball team has partnered with former Mountaineer Dave Audia (1969) for their opening "Champions of Character" event this season. Mr. Audia is a general board member for a non-profit organization named Surgance, and is the project director for the organization's Glove Story campaign. The 2009 goal for this project is to collect and distribute 10,000 donated baseball gloves to underprivileged youth around the world. Coach Audia is also attempting to purchase 250 new baseball gloves as educational incentives to youth in the Dominican Republic. During the annual Alumni weekend on October 3, current Berea College baseball players and alumni presented Coach Audia with an initial gift of 35 gloves and enough funds to purchase over four of the new gloves.

Audia, who played baseball for Berea, graduated in 1969. After coaching high school baseball in Georgia for more than 30 years, Dave Audia took a trip to the Dominican Republic for an international sports outreach program through Score International. Ryan Hess, Berea’s head coach for the past five years shares the tale.

“One of the first couple of years Dave started going down there, he started talking to some of the kids. One kid needed his glove fixed and Dave started fixing it; and that sort of became his thing. When the group that was visiting the Dominican Republic was on the field playing, Dave would be surrounded by kids who just needed their glove fixed. That was essentially where he developed the idea to partner with Surgance to start looking at how to provide gloves to some of these kids, and they’ve also begun to take this initiative around the world.”

Coach Hess, who also graduated from Berea College in 1998, spoke with Audia through the alumni partnership he set up to get the alumni more involved with the Berea Baseball program. During one of the first years of his alumni involvement with the program, Audia-- who was at first a little reluctant to participate-- became reconnected with the baseball program after his wonderful experience during one of the alumni baseball games, in which he got a base hit. When Audia mentioned the idea to Hess, Hess agreed that this was an effort the alumni and players as a team could really get involved with. Most of their efforts have been focused upon serving the local community, but as Hess noted, “Baseball is a passion for us and these kids also share that passion with us. I think it’s important for us to give back. We’re privileged to have things, but we could give them a used glove and it’s probably the greatest thing that some of them will ever get.”

Coach Hess shares, “It’s been a nice partnership just with us and the alumni, but to be able to contribute to a program like this is huge.”One of the reasons, the alumni partnership was created was to give players the opportunity to develop the understanding that the Berea Baseball Program goes way beyond just being a team. There have been guys who have come before and there are going to be guys who play after. The partnership will help the team to develop an appreciation for the history, not only of Berea College, but of Berea College baseball. The players have been receptive to the program. According to Hess, “The coaches tell the players during the recruitment process that one of the goals of the program is to get them involved in the community, so that they know to come with that expectation. Every year the baseball team tries to implement three or four different programs to serve the community. So when someone like Dave Audia stands in front of them and tells them stories about what he has seen on some of his travels around the world while supplying baseball gloves to underprivileged youth, it’s something that they definitely jump on board with.”

For more information about how to contribute to the Glove Story campaign, visit the Surgance website.

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