ST. LOUIS -- The Minor League Baseball season has been over for two months, but there has been substantial activity this week at Dozer Park, home of the Cardinals' Class A affiliate in Peoria, Ill.
Members of the Peoria Chiefs organization worked quickly to set up a donation drive and online auction to assist in the tornado relief efforts for nearby communities. Sunday's storms devastated the central Illinois towns of Washington and Pekin, both of which are located just miles from Peoria.
That proximity meant that members of the Chiefs' front office, as well as player host families and the team's fan base, were directly affected.
Several individuals and organizations, including the Cardinals, have reached out with donations for the online auction. Bidding is ongoing at peoriachiefs.milbauctions.com/gallery.cfm, and more items are being added as they are received.
Highlighting the memorabilia up for bid are a Ryne Sandberg-signed Hall of Fame program, as well as baseballs autographed by Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, Greg Maddux, Willie McGee, Lee Smith, Tony La Russa, David Freese and Joe Kelly. On Thursday, the organization also posted Allen Craig and Yadier Molina jerseys, apparel packages for the Chicago Bears and University of Illinois and even an unopened American Girl doll donated by a local 7-year-old.
Nathan Baliva, director of media and baseball operations for Peoria, said that the Cardinals, Cubs, Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks and several other Minor League teams -- including the Cardinals' affiliates in Springfield (Mo.) and Memphis -- will be donating additional items for the auction. Those items will include tickets, autographs and merchandise.
Current and former Chiefs players are among those who have made donations to the auction, as well. That list includes Tyrell Jenkins, Patrick Wisdom, Charlie Tilson, Carson Kelly, Jacob Wilson and Casey Rasmus.
The Chiefs plan to run the auction indefinitely as items arrive. Those interested in making a donation -- and it does not have to be sports-related -- are asked to contact Baliva at email@example.com.
In addition to raising money through the auction, the Chiefs opened up their ballpark this week to collect item donations. Fans were asked to drop off bottled water, non-perishable foods, toiletries, clothing, diapers and other essentials to help those who have been displaced by the tornadoes.
Because the response has been so overwhelming, the Chiefs are asking that no more tangible donations are dropped off at the ballpark this week. All the shelters and storage facilities in the area have run out of space to store goods.
As of Thursday morning, the Peoria club had already filled four semi-trucks with donations to bring to Washington. The organization expects to send another two to three loads soon to clear out all the food and clothing that is being stored in the Chiefs' clubhouse and the lower level of the ballpark.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB.