Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Good news from Iraq: National baseball team getting new gear

By Grace Chung

WASHINGTON — Iraq's national baseball team, which has one five-year-old bat, nine second-hand gloves and no uniforms, is about to gear up.

McClatchy reported last week from Baghdad that the team, which trains on a college soccer field in Chinese running shoes, lacks a rulebook, not to mention spikes, caps and other equipment.

On reading the story, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow launched a nationwide appeal. And now, her "Operation Iraqi Baseball" is about to deliver the goods.

The shipment will include basic necessities, such as bats and gloves, donated by CTG Athletics, a New York-based sporting goods company. Uniforms, donated by Ebbets Field Flannels, will soon follow, once they've been designed and tailored.

"We received a huge response — on Twitter, by e-mail, by phone, from friends and from famous people, regular viewers coast to coast and beyond," Maddow told viewers. "We got offers of everything from money to used gear to new gear to shipping help to contacts in the Iraqi government to contacts in the American government who might be able to help."

Maddow, an avid baseball fan, is personally contributing a baseball manual, balls and helmets. She also organized donations from sporting goods manufacturers.

FSR Star, an international trade company based in Ashland, Ohio, will provide the shipping.

After watching the Maddow show, a Seattle-based manufacturer of vintage baseball uniforms e-mailed Maddow, asking how he could contribute, and Maddow passed the offer on to McClatchy. In Baghdad, McClatchy special correspondent Laith Hammoudi contacted the team.

Soon they'll be in spanking new uniforms. "I just thought this was a great chance to share something when we saw that these guys didn't have anything," said Jerry Cohen, president of Ebbets Field Flannels.

The Iraqis chose a royal blue uniform with the post-Saddam flag for the front and the words 'Iraqi baseball' on the back above the number.

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