Action Team, Major Leaguers celebrate Veterans Day building house for local Vet
ROCHESTER, N.H. -- More than 50 Action Team Captains from Maine and Massachusetts joined Major Leaguers and New Englanders Matt Barnes (Connecticut), Chris Iannetta (Rhode Island) and Ryan O'Rourke (Massachusetts) on Saturday, Nov. 14, for a regional service project to help South East New Hampshire Habitat for Humanity build a house for a local veteran and his young family.
Action Team Captains from Brunswick High School, Thornton Academy and York High School in Maine and Attleboro High School in Massachusetts boarded coach buses at the crack of dawn and hit the ground running -- or shall we say hammering -- when they reached Rochester by 8:30 p.m.
Despite a brisk New England morning, with intermittent wind gusts and temperatures hovering around 35 degrees, not to mention some of the first snowflakes of the season, the Team Captains were put right to work by South East New Hampshire Habitat for Humanity's site manager, Doug Gregory.
Donning hardhats and work gloves, the community-minded teens spent the first three hours on the site cutting lumber, spreading gravel in the basement and nailing floor boards to the frame and foundation. After retreating to the heated buses for lunch and a brief respite, the Action Team Captains and Gregory returned to the job site to find their reinforcements had arrived.
Barnes, a pitcher with the "hometown" Boston Red Sox, Iannetta, a free agent catcher who spent the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and O'Rourke, a Minnesota Twins pitcher, jumped right in and helped the teens finish what they started.
Over the next three hours, the group moved like a well-oiled machine, under Gregory's expert supervision.
When the sun began its descent, the group was moved to cheers when the Major Leaguers and Action Team Captains helped put up the first wall of the house.
Motivated by a tremendous sense of accomplishment and pride -- and much to the surprise of Gregory -- the players and teens did not stop there. They continued their labor of love and put up four walls before calling it a day.
An added bonus for the teens and players was the presence of Mrs. Nickerson and her four young children. Mrs. Nickerson's husband is a veteran who helped with Pentagon recovery efforts following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Mrs. Nickerson mingled with the teens and players while her children were entertained by a variety of impromptu games set up by the Team Captains. She was moved by the visit, telling the New Hampshire Union Leader, "It was awesome. It's like Christmas morning."
The Habitat for Humanity project is expected to be completed by June 2016, and at that time there is no doubt that the Nickersons will quickly turn their new house into a home.
Soon after the last wall was put up for the day, the teens, their Action Team adult coordinators and the players gathered at a nearby church to warm up and reflect on their day's work in particular, and the Action Team program in general.
At the church, the players participated in a question-and-answer session with the Team Captains, where they shared their views on community service and giving back to support their neighbors in need.
The players were awed by the passion and dedication to service that the Action Team Captains possess, and the teens were inspired by the players' down-to-earth demeanor and genuine desire to lend a hand.
By working alongside Major Leaguers throughout the day, the Captains learned first-hand that you don't have to be a celebrity to make a difference in someone's life. All it takes is a little time.
Barnes summed up the day for everyone, telling the Union Leader, "Any time you can give back to the community, especially it being more personal for me being from New England, being able to come up here and help out today, was pretty fun."
The Action Team is a national youth volunteer program in which Major League baseball players and high school students work together to train and inspire the next generation of volunteers. Created and administered by the Major League Baseball Players Trust and Volunteers of America, the Action Team program is in place in over 100 high schools from 30 states, including Alaska and Hawaii.