Missions auction jerseys to benefit families of Uvalde tragedy

June 17th, 2022
Jose Garcia and Missions catcher Chandler Seagle before the game.David Michael/MiLB.com

Last month's shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that took the lives of 19 students and two teachers shook the United States to its core. Yet a byproduct of evil inevitably leads to an outpouring of love, support and kindness -- all needed to begin the healing.

Sports, professional, collegiate and amateur, has always stepped forward to aid communities in times of hardship, and the tragedy in Uvalde elicited the same response. Located approximately 80 miles from the heart of the tragedy sits Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium, home to the Double-A San Antonio Missions.

"San Antonio is the closest big city to Uvalde," said Missions president Burl Yarbrough. "Some of our high schools play in the same district. There are so many connections we have with the Uvalde community. What happened really hit home."

In conjunction with the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and Wilson Sporting Goods, Missions players and coaches wore replica jerseys of what the Uvalde High School baseball squad wears.

Fans were able to bid for the game-worn jerseys with all proceeds going to the Robb School Memorial Fund, established by the First State Bank of Uvalde to aid the families of those affected by the tragedy.

"Any time something like this happens, you always wonder what you can do to help," Yarbrough said. "[Assistant general manager] Mickey Holt came up with the idea of a jersey auction and everybody thought it was a great idea. I'm thankful we were able to put this together and hopeful we raise a good amount of money tonight."

Logistics were an issue, considering the length of time it takes to manufacture uniforms, but a call to Wilson produced good news and quick results.

"Wilson was great in making this happen," Yarbrough said. "Getting these jerseys made and delivered is usually a two-month process. But Wilson called us back after we explained what we wanted and said they'd make it happen. That was the key. Everything came together in about two weeks."

Longtime manager Phillip Wellman spoke of the emotional tug of the game and why it mattered so much.

"We're fathers, we're sons ... and to see something like that happen and to also have children involved is just devastating," Wellman said. "The only way to combat evil is with kindness and generosity. What we did tonight can't replace what those families have lost, but any amount can help ease some of the financial burden they will be dealing with. The feelings of remorse and grief ... you just wish you could do more."

Wellman admitted it was a tough, albeit rewarding night for him and his entire team.

"Personally, as a father and grandfather, seeing those young faces and the glow in their eyes ... it takes a lot for a crusty old curmudgeon to get tears in his eyes, but it took me a bit to keep my composure," Wellman said. "I'm glad we could help in any small way. It really tugs at your heart."

The 60-year-old skipper made a point of acknowledging his own church at his home in Chattanooga, Tenn.

"Stuart Heights Baptist Church donated $10,000 to this cause," Wellman said. "I can promise you my jersey isn't worth $100, but they put up that money with most people probably not even knowing where Uvalde, Texas, is. It just goes to show how people can come together and show our humanity, whether near or far."

Missions outfielder Thomas Milone found the night extremely special.

"It was such a terrible thing that happened," the 27-year-old said. "It's hard to explain the feelings I had but it was a real honor to be wearing those jerseys. Looking around the crowd and seeing people wearing [Uvalde High School color] maroon was awesome. It shows how strong this community is."

Milone, who tallied two hits and scored the first run of the game, especially enjoyed talking with the high school players who attended the game.

"It was great [talking to them]," he said. "I wish we could have spoken more, but hopefully we can get together with them again. It was really cool to introduce myself and just chat with them for a few minutes. They seemed to enjoy it, too."

The result of the game might be trivial, but a come-from-behind win for the Missions put an ideal capper on an emotional evening. Despite temperatures that hit 100 degrees at first pitch, 5,824 fans did their part in helping a grieving community, one that will sadly never be completely whole again, continue to heal.

"A lot of people from Uvalde were here tonight," Yarbrough said. "Part of [tonight] was also trying to create a little escape for them, even if just for a few hours. Our team has embraced this entire process and it really turned into a wonderful event."