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Jefferson Awards: East Bay Kids Get Baseball Dreams Fulfilled

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Jeff Humphrey - Jefferson Award Winner. (CBS)

Jeff Humphrey – Jefferson Award Winner. (CBS)

OAKLAND (CBS 5) — Many boys dream of playing baseball, but some can’t because the equipment is too expensive. But many East Bay kids are grateful to the man known as the Robin Hood of baseball for the gear to get them in the game.

Eight-year-old Harold Bledsoe grips his baseball glove as he stands in the dugout, keeping one eye on the game.

“I like baseball the most of all sports,” he said.

Bledsoe plays in the Oakland Babe Ruth Baseball League. His mother Dee Orama, who is also the coach, once worried they couldn’t afford to realize his baseball dream.

“With my son, Harold, we probably wouldn’t be able to play,” Orama said.

But Jeff Humphrey pitched in with the save. Jeff and his son, Jack, collect used baseball gear that leagues have outgrown and distribute it for free to other leagues that need it.

“If you don’t have cleats, gather round the box over here,” Humphrey called out. The kids swarm the big box of cleats.

The donations are a hit among inner city kids like Bledsoe and his teammates, who can’t afford up to $200 in baseball equipment they need to play.

“You’re only young once, and after that, it’s over, so enjoy the great game of baseball,” Humphrey said.

In the last seven years, Jeff and Jack have collected 24 truckloads of baseball gear to distribute to 1000 kids.

“It’s not just a father and a son. It’s a group of a hundred people, (who) have come together to collect gear. We’re just the conduit,” Humphrey explained.

When the Humphreys show up, it’s like Christmas. Former San Francisco Giant Nate Oliver coordinates baseball lessons for hundreds of kids in Oakland’s RBI program. He gives away the gear Humphrey collects.

“This glove is yours to keep. It belongs to you,” he tells the kids. “The look and expression on their faces and the body language. It says it all. It’s just fulfilling.”

Humphrey packs truckloads of donations into his garage – from caps to cleats. He said he hasn’t seen his garage empty in seven years, when his then 11-year-old son Jack was playing in a baseball camp. They donated Jack’s old cleats to his coach, and ended up taking over and expanding the coach’s donation and distribution system throughout the East Bay. Jack calls his father his role model.

“He’s excellent coordinating things, always making a friendly phone call down the street,” said Jack Humphrey. “So what’s the worst they’re gonna say? No I don’t need it? So he’s a great man to look up to.”

Jeff Humphrey has only two requests of the recipients: “Number one is don’t write me a thank you letter, you’re too busy. And number two is get the gear to the kids.”

So, for equipping a thousand young people to play baseball, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Jeff Humphrey.
(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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