Barry Zito and his colleagues who have joined in his charity feel an urgent need to help the hundreds of wounded servicemen and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
They cannot possibly help all of the wounded soldiers requiring long-term care. Yet Zito's "Strikeouts For Troops" does make a dent in the veterans' needs.
"We have 35 players involved and our goal is to have one on every team," said the Giants' lefty. "We have at least half the teams, and we're getting there slowly. Some guys hear about it and they want to help because the military is pretty close to most guys' families.
"Because it's so close to everyone's families, guys just want to help out. It's a cause all Americans can really come together for."
Zito realizes how critical the need is now. The war in Iraq, which began in March 2003, is already longer than World War I and the Korean war. Although total casualties are far less than Vietnam, radically improved battlefield medical care saves proportionally more wounded soldiers. So their long-term medical and social needs are greater.
Strikeouts for Troops has raised more than $500,000, with 100 percent of the revenue going directly to the veterans in need. Zito pays the the one percent administration fee out of his own pocket to ensure none of the money raised is diverted to overhead.
"We're helping them when they come back and they're recovering in military hospitals," Zito said. "It's kind of like a kitty from which they can apply for grants. When we get the applications, we grant them, help fly out family to their bedside. We know how important it is to have friends and family at your bedside while you're recovering. It adds to your peace of mind. It's about bringing the comforts of home to these men's and women's hospital rooms."
Some players donate a flat fee to the Strikeouts For Troops. Zito himself started in 2005 with $100 per strikeout, increasing it to $200 in his final Oakland season in 2006 and now $400 with the Giants. Hitters have donated an amount per home run or RBI.
"Fans can go online and can track that," Zito said. "The Web site tracks that with the players' pictures and how they're performing. Guys like Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, C.C. Sabathia. C.C. did a great thing, donating per strikeouts in the All-Star Game. His presence on the Strikeouts for Troops team has been huge."
The next step is expanding the program into pro football. Based on Zito's record, he'll probably make it work.
The southpaw doesn't limit his philanthropic work to Strikeouts for Troops. As a result, The Sporting News named him baseball's No. 1 "Good Guy" in 2006.
Zito also donated support to the American Liver Foundation after his mother, Roberta, required a liver transplant. He's active in the Players Trust and is also affiliated with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Muscular Dystrophy Association and Special Olympics and Make-a-Wish Foundation.
Working in the Bay Area enabled Zito to participate in Tony La Russa's Animal Rescue Foundation fundraiser while serving on the honorary committee for the "Benefit Concert for the Animals" to assist animal rescue and care in future natural disasters.
Zito's resume is impressive, but it will always be topped by Strikeouts For Troops.
Story courtesy of Red Line Editorial.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.