TAMPA -- When Marisa Moralobo began dating Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier last year, she wasn't certain what to expect when she began interacting with the wives and girlfriends of other players.But Moralobo quickly felt at home."It's such a welcoming group of ladies,'' said Moralobo, who is now
TAMPA -- When Marisa Moralobo began dating Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier last year, she wasn't certain what to expect when she began interacting with the wives and girlfriends of other players.
But Moralobo quickly felt at home.
"It's such a welcoming group of ladies,'' said Moralobo, who is now engaged to Kiermaier with a Nov. 10 wedding planned. "There wasn't a time when I felt left out.
"I'm still somewhat new to the baseball lifestyle. We're primarily associated with our boyfriends and husbands, but we have our own goals and dreams. It's nice that we can make our own name by being involved in things we're passionate about and love doing.''
That's the foundation of the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association's Wives Club, a four-year-old organization that offers support, networking opportunities and charitable endeavors for the wives and girlfriends of past and present MLB players.
Saturday, during a three-hour event at Kendra Scott Jewelry in Tampa's Hyde Park section, the organization raised more than $850 for the Florida Dream Center's Adopt-A-Block program, which provides basic needs and revitalization for low-income communities. It's a favorite charity of the Rays' Wives Club.
During a three-hour shopping window, the Kendra Scott store pledged 20 percent of its proceeds to the Florida Dream Center. Wives and girlfriends of the Rays -- along with other MLB teams participating in area Grapefruit League games -- gathered at the store to support the event.
"We are so grateful to be partnering with the Wives Club,'' Florida Dream Center executive assistant Zelda O'Connell said. "We are primarily working in communities with single-parent families, low-income families, the elderly and the homeless. Everything helps and makes an impact.
"What do we do? We distribute food boxes. We have people going up and down the street, cleaning the sidewalks. Sometimes, we have an elderly person facing a county violation -- maybe it has reached $1,000 a day -- because they can't fix something at their home. We fix it. We're helping people who need the help. With the Rays' wives and the (MLBPAA) Wives Club, their efforts allow us to do these things for people. We love working with them.''
Kaitlyn McNicholas, an MLBPAA program coordinator who works specifically with the Wives Club, said more than 500 women are active in the organization.
"Our goal is to connect the women in communities all across baseball, whether it's former or current,'' McNicholas said. "We want to support their businesses and charities. If they have questions or need a resource, we want them to know we're the place to come.
"It's a unique community. Women generally appreciate the opportunity to stay connected and the women in baseball like that aspect as well. They connect through their commonalities because maybe they are going through things only they would understand. But they can work together on worthy causes and show a lot of pride in what they're doing.''
Anna Boxberger, wife of Rays pitcher Brad Boxberger, said she loves the social and charitable aspects of the Wives Club.
"Our guys work so hard and they're obviously the headliners, but we like feeling important too, and this gives us all a great opportunity,'' she said. "We come from a lot of different places and sometimes in baseball you move around a lot. But for eight months out of the year, we're at home in the Tampa area. And it's wonderful to help with local community efforts.
"When you hear about the things the Florida Dream Center does, it blows your mind. We're so honored to help. I think many of the baseball wives feel a real calling to work with the local organizations in their cities. This gives us an opportunity to make a real impact.''
Boxberger said the social aspect of the Wives Club is another way to stay connected. Additionally, the MLBPAA has established an online community -- "The Clubhouse" -- where women can interact, ask questions and share ideas about common areas of interest.
"It's a unique little bubble we fit in,'' Boxberger said. "It's nice to have a support system that totally walks this road with you.
"In this game, you never know what's next. Odds are, you're going to another team at some point. You want to make sure you stay connected and have a portfolio of other teams, maybe knowing the people you'll be sitting next to in the stands one day. But it's also nice to get behind causes and make a difference.''
With the Florida Dream Center, the Rays' wives already have made a significant difference.
"It's phenomenal what these ladies are doing for our community,'' said Steve Cleveland, the Florida Dream Center's executive director. "The more funds we have, the more we can do.
"That's why events like this (at Kendra Scott) mean so much. These ladies are taking time out to help people and that's a fantastic aspect of having a baseball team here. Maybe it doesn't get noticed or recognized, but it is certainly appreciated by us.''
Moralobo said she's looking forward to helping future causes and getting even more involved.
"Being with a baseball player can be a different kind of lifestyle and sometimes people don't understand what's involved,'' Moralobo said. "It's nice to have a group of people who are living that life and can give you advice.
"I think we are bonded together because of that and also because of the causes we want to get behind. I want to throw myself more into it because it really is a great organization.''