For Joe Trella, Hiram, ’09, it’s all about the love of the game.
On Sunday, March 13, the former Terrier centerfielder plans to start sharing his love for baseball with hundreds of desperately poor children in Nicaragua. He and Roger Cram, retired, long-time Director of Community Relations at Hiram College, will travel to Chinandega, Nicaragua to deliver 2,000 pieces of baseball equipment for the “children of the dumps,” poor, often homeless children who live and play on landfills, waste dumps and abandoned industrial sites in the Central American country.
“I went to Nicaragua in 2007 with Roger as part of my study abroad at Hiram,” said Trella, now an accountant with Deloitte-Touche in Cleveland. “We saw kids there that had nothing and stitched together baseballs with string and pieces of cloth because they want to play baseball so much. Baseball is more than the national sport there.”
The plight of the fledgling ball players in Central American children inspired Trella, while still in his senior year at Hiram, to start Up 2 Bat, a charity to collect baseball and other sports equipment for the children. Over the past two years he has managed to get equipment donations from service groups, other colleges, high schools and other sources, and he has accumulated a huge array of balls, bats, mitts, helmets, uniforms and other equipment. Much of the donated equipment has been stored on the Hiram campus. He said he plans to retrace his steps from the 2007 trip and distribute the equipment at schools and towns he visited in the Nicaraguan interior.
“I thought about when I was a kid, if I hit the ball into the water or something, I could just go get another ball,” he said. “These kids can’t do that.”
But the baseball charity mission hasn’t been without challenges, not the least of which has been how to get the equipment to the children. Trella said he has worked with Cram and local Rotary Clubs and other charitable groups to raise enough money to ship the goods. Last week he hosted a fundraising event that raised $700, enough to pay the airlines’ fees for extra personal baggage.
The trip is the end point of several years’ work, but Trella says he wants to morph his loosely organized charity into a full-fledged non-profit organization. He has established a website, up2bat.org., so people can connect.
“After we deliver this shipment, and play a few games with the kids,” he said. “I want to come back and start collecting more.”