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.
Star USA, 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.
Ebbets, which makes uniforms from wool, will design a mesh-style uniform to accommodate Iraqi temperatures, which average more than 120 degrees in July. Ebbets also is donating pants, undershirts, belts, socks and hats.
"We're going to see the Iraqis play in some of the smartest uniforms in the world," Cohen said.
Hammoudi said in a blog Sunday that the team's assistant coach "couldn't believe all the donations that were being mailed for them . . . He promised to work hard with all the team to say a practical 'thank you' to all the donors."
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