Youth baseball team coming up Aces in raising funds for charity

Upcoming Hit-a-Thon is final event of a long fundraising campaign to raise funds for Team Luke Hope for Minds

A youth baseball team has been raising funds for months now — not for its traveling budget or for new equipment but to help a national charity.

On Saturday, the Aces have one more card to play in their fundraising campaign to help Team Luke.

Some members of the Aces, a 9U tournament baseball team, pose in their Aces uniform while others have the Team Luke jerseys. The Aces have raised close to $30,000 for the Team Luke Hope for Minds charity and will hold a Hit-a-Thon on Saturday. They will then donate their money to Tim Siegel and his son Luke, who are coming from Texas to the Ridgefield Raptors game on Saturday night. Photo by Paul Valencia
Some members of the Aces, a 9U tournament baseball team, pose in their Aces uniform while others have the Team Luke jerseys. The Aces have raised close to $30,000 for the Team Luke Hope for Minds charity and will hold a Hit-a-Thon on Saturday. They will then donate their money to Tim Siegel and his son Luke, who are coming from Texas to the Ridgefield Raptors game on Saturday night. Photo by Paul Valencia

The Aces will be holding a Hit-a-Thon on the field that the Ridgefield Raptors play on, and then the Aces and Raptors will host Luke Siegel and his father Tim, who are arriving from Texas. 

“It’s been fun fundraising. I’m glad I am able to help people,” said Cannon Smith, one of the players on the Aces 9U club team. “It’s nice to know I’m doing more than just playing baseball.”

That is key to this baseball squad. The parents did not want it to just be about the game, about baseball skills. They wanted this club to also teach their children life lessons.

Ryan Phillips, the head coach, was moved by a segment on ESPN featuring the Team Luke charity. Luke, who used to play baseball, was 9 years old when he suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2015. Doctors said he would never be able to use his limbs. He can now use his limbs to make commands.

Tim Siegel is the executive director of the charity. Tim, Luke and the Aces have “met” over Zoom, but they will meet in person this week when Tim and Luke arrive in Clark County. Luke has been made an honorary member of the Aces and has his own jersey. The Aces also touch second base before every game. Luke played second base before his injury.

The Hit-a-Thon on Saturday is the final event in the Aces’ campaign. Dozens of children, boys and girls who play baseball and softball, who have raised at least $100 will get swings on the Raptors’ field. Also, some proceeds of the tickets to Saturday night’s game will go to Team Luke, as well. The plan is for a check to be presented to Team Luke late in the game.

In fact, if you are planning on attending Saturday’s game and do not yet have tickets, the Aces invite you to purchase the tickets through this fundraising link: https://groupmatics.events/event/TeamLukeHopeforMinds

“We’re proud to be part of it, but I have to give those guys credit,” said Gus Farah, the general manager of the Raptors, referring to the Aces.

Farah said he learned about what the Aces have been doing and was impressed. He said the Raptors are honored to be hosting the Aces and Team Luke at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex.

The goal was to raise $30,000. Phillips said the Aces are close, real close to that number. They will have the final tally on Saturday.

“The Raptors have been amazing, allowing us to do the Hit-a-Thon on their main field,” Phillips said. “Then the boys are going to watch the Raptors play on the same field. I’m hoping it is one of these days these boys and girls will remember for the rest of their lives.”

The Hit-a-Thon begins at 9 a.m. Saturday. There will be a scoring system and prizes awarded. There will be hit-it-here signs.

The Aces also held car washes and had restaurant nights throughout the region. And perhaps the biggest part of the fundraiser was going door-to-door, telling Team Luke’s story and asking for donations.

Ike Phillips, Ryan’s son, has been one of the team leaders. 

“He was very serious about coming up with a pitch. He practiced it,” Ryan said. 

Then, after a few adjustments, he was ready to go door-to-door, and teach his teammates.

“A lot of the boys went out with Ike for the first time and they saw how fun it was,” Ryan Phillips said. “It’s been really rewarding.”

Much like any tournament team, the goal is to improve skills. The adults running the Aces make sure, however, that it is more than just about winning a game.

“I wanted the kids to have something else besides baseball,” Phillips said. “I wanted them to get a better feel for the community and a better feel for service at a young age.”

The players also learned some lessons and gained confidence.

“I was shy at first,” acknowledged Brody Keser about going door-to-door. “We practiced a little sales pitch. After you do it one, it gets easier.”

“It makes me feel good because it feels good to help,” added Isaac “Goose” Johns. 

“It feels really good to help people who really need help,” said Owen Winzer. “You can feel you are doing stuff that’s really good inside. No matter what, it’s good to help people.”

For more on Team Luke Hope for Minds, go to: https://www.teamlukehopeforminds.org/

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