Michigan community support helps baseball team play hours after equipment stolen from bus

KALAMAZOO, MI — Chad Bauer’s heart sank to the bottom of his stomach Saturday morning after learning that thousands of dollars worth of baseball equipment and countless memorabilia had been stolen from the Rockford Rivets team bus.

As night fell, the club’s general manager was brought to tears by an outpouring of support from Southwest Michigan in what could only be described as an emotional roller coaster for the baseball team. summer from Illinois-based college.

It started Friday night, when the Rivets of the Northwoods League wrapped up their four-game road series against the Battle Creek Battle Jacks, then returned to the team hotel to rest for the game of Saturday against the Kalamazoo Growlers.

At some point during the night, thieves broke into the Rivets’ bus and stole everything from the players’ bat bags to the team’s water cooler, jeopardizing the next series, and possibly the rest of the season.

“I got a phone call Saturday morning from one of my coaches, and he said, ‘Hey, we’ve got a big problem,’” Bauer said. “And I was like, ‘OK. What do we have? And he said, “Well, our equipment has been stolen.”

“At first I was like, ‘OK, so our bats and balls are gone, but he’s like, ‘No, the players’ bags – a lot of them have been taken.’

“That’s when I knew it was going to be tough, and I think the first reaction from players and coaches is, ‘How are we going to play? There’s no way we’re going to play. can play tonight.

The team has filed police reports for stolen equipment, but there’s no playbook on how to handle this scenario hours before a game.

“The first thing you need to do is get the players in the right mindset because they just lost things that are really valuable to them, like their gloves, which some of these guys have been wearing for years, in making sure they’re broken right where they want them,” Bauer said. “Some guys had personal items in those bags that were taken, so I’m like, ‘OK, this is tough mentally, but I think the most important thing we need to do is keep things in perspective here.’

“I kind of said to the coaches, ‘Hey, whatever was taken is replaceable for the most part. They are objects; no one is sick; no one dies. Let’s see how to move forward from this.

“With that, we all came to the conclusion that we have a game plan. What do we need to play a game? We need shoes; we need gloves; some guys need batting gloves.

Hannah DeLora was the duty manager at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Portage on Saturday morning when she learned that a baseball team was arriving and needed to be kitted out from head to toe.

But the call was quick and the details weren’t fully fleshed out, leaving DeLora and her staff wondering who was about to walk through the front door in 20 minutes.

“We could have brought in a T-ball team, or we could have brought in the Tigers for all we knew,” DeLora said. “We didn’t really know who it was, what age range or what we needed, so when we saw them come in we realized, ‘OK, these are grown men’.”

It was a scenario where everyone was on deck, as store employees rolled cart after cart of cleats, mitts and batting gloves until the final bill came in at around $8,000. , DeLora said.

“We have in-store event weekends, especially during baseball or football season, and we have a high volume of sales on those days, but it’s usually parents who bring their kids to pick up things. It’s not necessarily a whole team at the same time,” she said. “It certainly wasn’t how I expected my day to go on a casual Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods, but it was a fun experience.

“They were so grateful and they were more than patient with us as we tried to see what sizes we were in. They were all super, super respectful, and they raised their hands when they needed something, so I did a joke saying that I’m not a teacher, and they could just yell when they needed something.

To help with unexpected expenses, the Rivets set up a GoFundMe account, which far exceeded its $10,000 goal and is currently at over $13,000, as of Monday afternoon.

Bauer said Southwest Michigan residents also helped the Rivets’ cause on Saturday by purchasing Dick’s Sporting Goods gift cards and donating them to the team.

“It really suffocated me a bit,” he said. “Even though bad things are happening to people in the world, and we always seem to hear about bad things, there are really a lot of good people out there, and that really made me feel really, really humbled. “

The equipment the Rivets couldn’t find in the store was provided by the Growlers, and the game went as planned, with Rockford taking a 9-8 victory in front of 3,100 fans at Homer Stryker Field.

“It really showed the kind of guys we had on this team,” Bauer said. “These guys have a lot of grit, a lot of determination, and it kind of pulled the team together a little bit, I think, maybe closer than they were, and I think they were determined to go out there to say, ‘Let’s go win this game. We have the tools we needed to go out and do it.

“I think that was a pretty big accomplishment, given what an emotional roller coaster they were on that day.”

Luckily for the Rivets, Battle Creek police were able to recover much of the material from a dumpster, with Deputy Chief Troy Gilleylem saying Monday afternoon that he hoped his department had located everything.

A suspect is in custody, Gilleylem added.

Throughout the stolen equipment saga, Bauer said it was “incredible” to see so much support from people around Kalamazoo, and that the series of events put into perspective the important things of life.

“I want to send a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who has reached out to us, whether through GoFundMe or just local people in Kalamazoo,” he said. “I took the team for brunch yesterday morning at The Rooster’s Call, and the waitress came up to me after we were done eating and said someone had paid our bill, so a complete stranger took the whole team bill yesterday morning can’t even explain how it made us feel it was amazing it really hit home and sent a message letting us know how many good people are there.

“Then we get into the game and they had a little kid with cancer running the bases, and that put everything into perspective. All we had in terms of equipment, it’s just stuff, but a little kid battling cancer and having chemo – you talk about real problems, it’s a real problem, so I think a lot of our guys took that into perspective and spent time with the kid, and it was really cool to watch.

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