by Will Perry
Two days later I was back on the trail—albeit 50 percent. Adjusting my initial path somewhat, I reached the North Sea coast with the excitement of a little boy hitting his first home run. The nerve-racking experience of a few days ago faded quickly once I saw the sea. I seemed to forget that I was sick and my sore legs and blistered feet stopped preoccupying my thoughts. As I hugged the coastline for a few miles, I could spot the quaint village of Robin Hood’s Bay. The goal I had fought so hard to reach was finally near at hand. As chance would have it, on my last mile to the village, I ran into my friends Phil and Alex, the father-son team with whom I had crossed paths several times during my journey.
With Robin Hood’s Bay in sight, I began jogging for the first time since the nightmarish midge encounters from earlier in my walk. Despite some setbacks, I finished what I had started 192 miles/13 days ago on the cliffs of the Irish Sea. As I limped into the small village, through its narrow cobbled streets, I felt like a hero returning home from battle. I dipped my feet into the North Sea, grateful to have crossed “home plate” and traversed the whole of England.
Soon, baseball equipment will be loaded onto pallets in the United States and be shipped to São Paulo, Brazil, where a Little League baseball community will receive enough equipment to put 12 teams on the field. This walk, while challenging at times, has been one of the most worthwhile endeavors of my life. I have enjoyed a contented sense of accomplishment from overcoming the obstacles placed before me during the walk and having the thrill of knowing I have helped “glove” more than a hundred Brazilian youth.
by Will Perry
In my mind, shelter + people = safety. While this would eventually prove true, my struggles that day did not end when I reached the Lion Inn. No sooner than I had reacquired my rucksack from the Lion Inn staff, immediately changing into dry clothes, my physical state worsened. My body began shivering and shaking more than it had on the unprotected Moor plateaus. My body didn’t agree with my attempts to eat fish and chips and guzzle down a cup of hot chocolate. I took every precautionary measure I knew to keep my body from reaching a dangerous hypothermic state: hot shower, dry clothes, cocooning myself in a wool blanket and drinking copious amounts of Gatorade and water to rehydrate. It was ultimately the constant heat emanating from an electric heater that would regulate my body temperature.
With friends who had travelled up from Leeds by my side, I was driven to the nearest hospital (an adventure which took us nearly two hours). Although I wanted to sleep overnight at the Inn and continue on (albeit slowly) the next morning, the doctor who attended me at the hospital said that was out of the question. He explained that I was mildly hypothermic, due to severe dehydration and exhaustion, likely caused by “wild camping” without a tent the previous nine nights. The doctor called me “mental” and a “nutter” (British terms for a crazy person) for undertaking a solitary walk of this magnitude. Before he let me go he asked why I was doing it. I explained to him that for years I lived among some of the world’s most destitute people in Brazil and I wanted to give them a gift that would put a smile on their faces and be a force for good in their lives. Then I gave a short speech (half conscious) declaring my love for the game of baseball, explaining that baseball was the reason I came to the U.K. to study Conflict Resolution and that I was walking across England as a fundraiser to send baseball equipment to Brazilian youth in São Paulo who either couldn’t afford or didn’t have access to such equipment. Though my zeal for baseball that night in the hospital did not induce high-fives from the listening nurses and doctors, I knew that somewhere in Brazil a kid could have the chance to be play ball instead of getting vacuumed into a life of drug trafficking and misdeed.
by Will Perry
For the next five and a half hours I would not see a single person on the trail. At this point in the walk, the Moors were depressingly flat and desolate—no trees, no shelter. The tallest thing I would see were the ankle-high heather bushes. The wind and the rain intensified as I trudged on. My layers were soaked through and because I had forwarded my heavy pack to The Lion Inn, I had no spare layers. With no cellphone coverage, there was no turning back. It became obvious to me that if I stopped walking, my body would be in trouble. Hours earlier I had found a slight ditch, laying my body flat in an effort to block the wind and allow for my body to rest. Thirty seconds later, my body started to shake and I began to feel a chill spread across my body. The warm sweat underneath my jacket became cold and my core body temperature began to drop rapidly. Seriously doubting my reasons for undertaking this walk in the first place, I forced myself to think about baseball and drier, sunnier, happier summer days. I pushed on, keeping my mind strong–remembering the kids in Brazil that would soon be playing baseball with the equipment I helped send to them.
Walking across the Moors was easily becoming the most difficult physical challenge I had ever experienced. It was a solo fight against exhaustion, dehydration, wind and rain. I lost my footing on a few occasions, nearly collapsing out of the increasing dizziness and exhaustion. Augmenting my food and water intake seemed to do nothing to improve my health. I resigned to desperate measures so as to keep myself going. I played the alphabet game in my head—naming out-loud the names of different animals that started with each letter of the alphabet. I tried singing out-loud any song to which I knew the words. I couldn’t help but glance at my watch after every 100 yards or so. After the alphabet game and my attempts to sing became a nuisance, I tried writing my Master’s dissertation in my head as I walked. Luckily, the subject of my dissertation was about the role of baseball in building peace among nations and communities in conflict. My mind was carried away in baseball thoughts until I turned a corner and finally saw, as described, the isolated pub in the middle of nowhere.
The Inn appeared to me as an oasis in the middle of a desert; a figment of my imagination too good to be true. It would take me 45 minutes to reach Lion Inn after first sight. Even with the inn in plain sight, those approaching minutes seemed slower than any of the past 10 hours. The walk had dragged on and on. Because of the less than pleasant circumstances, the landscape of the fabled “Yorkshire Moors” became as upsetting as how my stomach felt. My spirits were lifted once I finally arrived at the inn, hobbling my way inside.
by Will Perry
The next morning I was on my way to Reeth, through the beautiful valleys that cradled the River Swale that connected Keld to Richmond. When I arrived to Reeth, I was able to recharge some of my electronic devices, send a postcard to my wife and even Facetime with her for a few hours. As I was searching for a good pub to eat dinner, two ladies approached me and inquired about the baseball hanging from my rucksack. I explained to them why I was walking across England and they seemed very intrigued. We sat down and chatted for a bit about the highlights of the walk thus far. They were appalled about the level of midges I had encountered and didn’t know how I could do it. Well, it just so happens that one of the ladies and her husband, not wanting me to “brave the bivy” and sleep with the midges another night, insisted that I stay with them in a spare bedroom in the B&B their family had rented out for the weekend. I gratefully accepted their offer and spent most of the night chatting with them. Staying with them meant I would have a shower, charged electronic devices, internet connection, a comfortable bed and most importantly, have a respite from the midges which had plagued me throughout my walk. It was a great night.
A reprieve from this!
The next day’s walk was the shortest of my entire journey. I walked only 8 miles to a camping barn just outside Richmond. I was grateful to have a respite from the midges inside a bunkhouse conversion from old cattle stalls. The hard mattress ironically wasn’t as comfortable as my therm-a-rest, but access to a toilet, shower, a sink for washing and a clothesline were very welcome luxuries.
When I arrived in Richmond, I resupplied and took a few hours to eat a nice sausage roll at the local bakery and pickup a package I had sent to the post office at Richmond. From there I journeyed through the flat, uneventful 22 mile slog until I reached the small village of Osmotherley on the western boundary of the North Yorkshire Moors.
The day I left Osmotherley I had woken up with a fever and wasn’t feeling very well. Even though I hadn’t slept in a bivy bag the previous three nights, I found myself shivering throughout the night despite being plenty warm. I hadn’t realized it at the time, nor did I allow myself to, but I must have contracted some sort of bug or infection from the midges and was also experiencing the onset of a flu and the beginning of a rather annoying bout of diarrhea. Diarrhea, just for the record, is quite possibly the worst thing you can have doing a long-distance walk, with the exception of a broken foot or leg of course.
As I set off from Osmotherly, and took the Cleveland Way, climbing and descending the Cleveland Hills, severe exhaustion started to set in. The fun was gone—the only thing keeping me going was the goal I had set to reach my destination for the day—The Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge. That goal, only four miles into my day, was still 12 miles away. 12 miles with my heavy rucksack and at the pace I had been going throughout my walk would take an estimated five hours. At this point I was on top of the windswept North Yorkshire Moors with no refuge or cover from the harrowing wind and heavy rain attacking me as I walked. Wincing as I walked, with piercing stomach pains, my two moisture wicking layers underneath my windproof and waterproof jacket seemed to do very little to protect me. I felt as though I had just jumped out of a warm pool as the layers underneath my jacket were soaked through and dripping with sweat (most likely due to the onset of the flu).
by Will Perry
The following morning I was up at 4am, hoping to avoid the midges at all cost as I walked alongside the lake into the mountainous terrain of the Lake District. My hopes were dashed as I was “midge food” for the next 6-7 hours. When I finally reached the peaks in the Lake District near Great Gable, the midges became far less present. However, while the midges became less of a problem, the arch in my right foot was developing a deep bruise and blisters were forming as a result of not being able to stop earlier to tend to my feet because of the onslaught of midges everywhere I went. As I reached the highest point of the walk thus far, I was noticeably limping with a pack probably 15 pounds too heavy and some very early foot problems.
As I descended past the Honister Slate Mine and past Rothswaite, I met a couple from Oxford that insisted I get my foot checked out in Keswick, as it would be my only chance to get medical help for the next 10 days. After a quick checkup in Keswick, my blisters were bandaged up and I switched to my Cloudster running shoes from ON Shoes who had sponsored me with a pair of shoes for my walk. The shoes were a God-send. I hung up my boots for the rest of the day.
The next day I picked the trail up again in Keswick, making my way to Grasmere, through the valley past Helvellyn into Patterdale. Along the way, I met a man who had noticed my Seattle Mariners ball cap asked if I was a Mariners fan. A big smile came to my face as I thought to myself, “finally, after one year of living in the UK, I can finally talk baseball with someone who cares!” Nearly salivating at the opportunity of talking baseball, after having been starved from its goodness for the past year, we swapped baseball stories as we marched on through the Lake District. Turns out, he’s from Vancouver, B.C., and saw ‘The Double’ when Edgar hit the game winning double to score Griffey and win the ’95 ALDS. As a kid, watching that moment on television was one of the most memorable and impactful events of my life. It solidified my love affair with baseball. He saw the baseball hanging from my rucksack and asked what it had written on it. I showed him what I had written, ‘Coast to Coast for Brazilian Baseball’ and explained that I was walking to raise enough funds to equip an entire under served community in Brazil with baseball gear (bats, gloves, balls, catcher’s gear, the works). Being a baseball guy himself, he got really excited about the cause and gave me a few pounds to help glove a young player in Brazil. It was refreshing to talk baseball again.
Patterdale was unquestionably the highlight of my walk to this point. The man who owned the post office-general store in the village was an American originally from Boston who had been living in Patterdale for years with his English wife. I told him I was doing the Coast-to-Coast walk to raise money for baseball equipment to send to youngsters in Brazil. He got pretty excited about that and wished me luck on my journey.
The walk out of Patterdale up the ridge to Kidsty Pike was breathtaking. The views in this easterly part of the Lake District were extraordinary. As I descended to Haweswater Reservoir, the rugged terrain of the beautiful Lake District chapter was coming to an end. Now I would be entering Shap and continuing on through Limestone pavement as I entered Kirkby Stephen. The next day’s walk was primarily through farmland until I reached the beautiful valley of Swaledale as I entered the Yorkshire Dales at the small village of Keld. When I arrived into Keld it was nearly dusk and the midges at the campsite where I would camp for the night were more numerous than the midges at Ennerdale on the first night of my trip. Donning my mosquito head net, I ran around trying to brush the armies of midges off my entire body before diving into my bivy bag. By the time I managed to dive into the bivy, an entire community of midges were inside waiting for me. I had no other alternative. I would later discover that Keld had a reputation for having the most midges in all of England, and gave the notorious midges of Scotland a run for their money. It was another long, sweaty, miserable night of having my body covered in bugs.
by Will Perry
My journey began at Leeds train station on Monday, June 24th where I caught a Northern Rail train to Carlisle (on the Scottish border) and from there transferred to St. Bees (on the Irish Sea).
My walk from St. Bees train station to the beach at St. Bees was filled with adrenaline and naïve excitement. Following tradition, I removed my boots, dipped my toes in the Irish Sea, and took a pebble from the beach to mark the exodus of my 12 day journey. I said goodbye to the ocean—knowing it would be 12 days before I would see the North Sea on the other side of England. My initial climb up the cliffs at St. Bees was grueling. When I reached the top, I knew I would have to offload a significant amount of weight. Not even 15 minutes into my journey and I was already offloading weight. I left a large ziplock filled with 5 cans of tuna, 2 cans of herring, deodorant, and three days worth of instant rice. I also emptied out my two liter water bottle, having an existing reserve 100 oz. reserve in my hydration pack. I had tried to get my pack to 20 pounds (sans food and water), but I my total weight upon departure was pushing 50 pounds. I knew I would have to get lighter or the next 11 days would be miserable.
I trekked along the cliffs as I headed towards the lighthouse at St. Bees and from there eastward on route to Robin Hood’s Bay. The views along the cliff were spectacular. The skies were clear enough that I could see to the Isle of Man, situated between England and Ireland. Passing through small villages and open farmland, I eventually arrived at Ennerdale Water after logging 16 miles on my first day.
Ennerdale is where I set camp for my first night—but not without a great deal of difficulty. I arrived to the lake around 10pm and began setting up camp. Opting for the bivy bag approach rather than the heavier alternative of a tent, setting up camp was no more than a few minute process. The attacking midges proved otherwise. I was swarmed and attacked my little black midges everywhere I attempted to unroll my therm-a-rest and lay out my bivy bag and sleeping bag. Each time I was attacked, I retreated further and further from the lake in hopes of finding an area unsuitable for midges. After nearly two hours of fighting off the midges, I settled on an area in the woods where the swarms seemed less voluminous. I was coated in several layers of insect repellent which seemed to do little to deter the pests. I zipped up my bivy bag and left a hole just large enough to breath from and consequently just large enough for the midges to enter. It was a miserable first night and thoughts of doubt, discouragement and frustration ran through my mind all night.
The race to home just got a lot longer for Will Perry, but with the opportunity to help kids in need receive the equipment they need to play baseball, he is determined to make it. Will hopes to raise $5,000 dollars to help Brazilian youth experience America’s Favorite Pastime. All he has to do is walk 192 miles across the U.K. and with the help of generous sponsors, baseball equipment will be shipped to one of Brazil’s underserved communities through Pitch in For Baseball.
Starting on June 24th Perry will take his first step off homeplate and walk from West to East coast across England, finishing on July 6th. The 12 day walk will start at the Irish Sea and end at the North Sea, requiring three months of long-distance training. Along the 192 miles Perry will cross three of Great Britain’s National Parks.
by Tom Schoenfelder
Most days, I complain about how boring life can be. This wasn’t one of those times. It all began with a trip to a baseball mecca on Memorial Day. One of my best friends from back home moved up to the Boston area, so I planned a trip to go see my hometown Phillies play the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park; the stadium exceeded my expectations.
Before my only thoughts on the stadium were about the awkward foul pole and giant wall. However, visiting it was closer to being at a museum or castle than actually watching a baseball game. There was something about its old-school atmosphere that made it feel less corporate than other ballparks I’ve been to.
The next part of my week long adventure included a 6 am, Thursday morning flight to Dallas, then a three hour drive to the tornado-impacted area of Moore, Oklahoma. Once I arrived in Moore, I immediately started helping in the relief efforts, knowing that the day would be cut short because of the impending thunderstorms.
My responsibilities included clearing out debris from homes and dragging it to the street. While volunteering gave me a warm feeling inside, yet it was depressing to see the possessions these families had worked for their entire lives, demolished in a blink of an eye. The most shocking realization for me was seeing one home virtually fine and its neighboring home, which only had the foundation left. As I expected, the thunderstorm cut my day short and caught a ride back to the volunteer headquarters in the back of a pick-up.
I arrived at the hotel and get two steps in front of my room when the siren goes off. I ran downstairs to the hotels conference center and hungout with the hundreds of FEMA and Red Cross people, until they told us that the tornado never came close to hitting us, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
The next day I woke up and help with the recovery efforts again. Someone found an old baseball card and baseball when clearing out what used to be a shed and placed it on a table, so I had to take a picture of it.
As the day progressed, we all caught wind that another large tornado was going to happen, so the day ended early again. This gave me time to explore the town I was staying in, Norman, Oklahoma. I walked around the OU campus and saw what appeared to be a baseball themed restaurant. The place was called Diamond Dogs and specialized in, as you’d expect, hot dogs. I went with the “Wonder Boy” - a corndog with Captain Crunch in the breading. I’ll be taking a trip back to Oklahoma for those hot dogs. While at dinner, I asked the guy if we’ll get hit by the tornado: His response, “Norman never gets hit”. Good call.
At this point, I felt great and looked forward to heading back to the hotel to write this blog entry. I turned on the TV, only to see another storm starting to head my way. I do the only logical thing, walk down to the hotel bar and strike up a conversation with the guy next to me, who was from Oklahoma. He said the best thing to do is to drive south and avoid the tornado, which led me to ask why he was still at the hotel. He said he didn’t have his truck, so I told him he was in luck. About this time, I regretted not getting the sports car as my rental. The alarm goes off, and when hundreds of people from the hotel start walking back to conference room, we leave.
It’s the calm before the storm, and there’s an eerie feeling as I start driving south. We stop off at a town about 20 miles south where the tornado wasn’t predicted to hit. Wrong. The owner of the bar where we stopped gets a phone calling saying we should leave. We walk outside as the sirens start blaring and people start running. The closest thing I could compare it to would be a Godzilla movie, where everyone is looking up and there’s a sense of panic. Dark clouds split the evening sky like a black and white cookie. We start driving away from the tornado’s direction, down a road with a closed road sign. I get to the dead end. I get out to relinquish my bladder on a tree when the owner of the cattle ranch invites us inside. We walk inside, have a cup of coffee and watch as the storm starts to pass. Once the brunt of the storm misses us, I drive safely back to the hotel. There, we return only to find that there was no reason to leave; the building was fine. Everyone in the hotel acted like nothing happened, while I got back from the adventure with a story of a lifetime.
by David Rhode
For those that follow Pitch In For Baseball, you know that helping communities impacted by a natural disaster is something we take great pride in and something we’ve become quite adept at doing. Our work in New Jersey and New York helping groups impacted by Hurricane Sandy continues to grow. What started as an effort to help a few leagues in Oceanside, Island Park and Bayonne has ballooned into an initiative which will see us helping 25 programs and over 9,500 kids.
Word of our organization and our ability to make a difference has spread through word-of-mouth and the media. Both CBS News York and The New York Times give an example of the real impact we are making in these communities.
While new applications for assistance continue to roll in, the countdown towards Opening Day grows nearer. We are thrilled to have played a small role in this process. We can’t wait to hear those magical words “play ball” ring out through communities all over the NJ and NY area.
by David Rhode
Bryan Donaldson, Senior Director of Community Relations for the Minnesota Twins, recently described Pitch In For Baseball as the Red Cross of Baseball. It put a smile on my face because we take great pride in helping youth baseball communities in their times of greatest need.
On Wednesday, February 13 we really did feel like the Red Cross of Baseball. That day, our operations manager, Tom Schoenfelder, drove a truck full of gear and uniforms from Harleysville, PA to Long Island, NY to meet the smiling and warm faces of the volunteers and children of Oceanside and Island Park Little Leagues. Together, he and I offloaded boxes, Red Cross style into the arms of the league administrators and parents whose leagues lost everything in Hurricane Sandy.
When you drive up to both field complexes, you are immediately struck by one thing…the water is REALLY close. At Oceanside, the water is about 10 feet behind the outfield fence forming their own youth baseball version of McCovey Cove. Great when a kid hits a homer, bad when a Hurricane and rising tides hits your town. At Island Park, the same scene exists…water creating a scenic backdrop in the near distance toward right field. Except on October 29, 2012 those waters got a lot closer. In fact over 5 feet of water covered their entire field complex and filled their equipment sheds.
But this past Wednesday was a different story, a story of hope and renewal. Many of these families are still not back into their homes. But on this day, they could feel a sense of comfort at least knowing that their children would be able to take the fields this spring when Little League season begins. Their smiling faces tell the real story of the day.
Pitch In For Baseball’s President, former MLB all-star Roy Smalley III, puts it this way, “as communities get on their feet it’s important to restore a sense of normalcy and nothing is more normal than youngsters taking the baseball fields in the Spring. We hope helping replacing some of the baseball equipment that was lost will allow these people to focus upon rebuilding their lives.”
Oceanside and Island Park represent the first chapter of an evolving story. Over the next few weeks, we will have the privilege to deliver much needed equipment and uniforms to Bayonne, Bayshore, North Merrick, Rockaway and East Rockaway. They all share a similar story in regards to the effects of Hurricane Sandy. They all share a deep gratitude for the donations they are about to receive.
We’d like to take full credit for the items they receive, but in truth Pitch In For Baseball is merely the product of the generous donations that we receive. Kids doing Bar Mitzvah projects, leagues making equipment and financial donations, manufacturers sending things our way. They all add up and they enable us to respond when called up. Do we respond like the Red Cross…I guess so. Unlike the Red Cross, however, we deliver joy and we’re ok with that.
For those want to learn more please visit http://www.pitchinforbaseball.org/html/. We’d love for you to join our team. Maybe you want to start and equipment collection in your community or make a financial contribution to help out our Sandy Relief initiative. You could also text “give gloves” to 80088 to donate $10 (normal text messaging rates apply).