A relationship struck between Cochrane Minor Ball (CMB) and former MLB player Ricardo Ufret has seen some 150 lbs. of ball equipment sent to the Carribean for use by youth in both Puerto Rico and Cuba.
During the Christmas school break, Todd Hisey, CMB equipment manager, and his family delivered three equipment bags packed with almost 40 bats, seven sets of catcher equipment, gloves, 60 baseballs and miscellaneous uniforms. The equipment is in good shape but rule changes here have banned them from being used for minor ball. Nor could they be donated to local schools because they are unable to accept used equipment due to liability issues.
Hisey didn't want the equipment to go to waste and sought out a place where it could be used. He was able to connect with Ufret through youth ministries in the Carribean. His family was traveling to Puerto Rico for a trip that was previously postponed due to Hurricane Maria and he used that time to seek out an appropriate recipient.
Ufret played baseball in the American college system and was drafted in the eighth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1989, where the shortstop had a brief major ball career before sustaining a career-ending injury. He returned to Puerto Rico and outside of his work volunteers to aid youth in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Cuba.
The timing of the delivery of this equipment fit perfectly with a clinic Ufret held in Cuba earlier this month to instruct baseball coaches and work with youth. He's splitting the equipment between several teams.
"Ricky's just got this big heart and a big can-do attitude and he's just doing a lot of it at his own cost. He has received some support, but as far as equipment donations go, we're probably largest to date," says Hisey.
"It was a great opportunity for Cochrane Minor Ball to take this equipment and put it to good use somewhere else in the world where they are not bound by the same rules and they just want to play for the love of the game."
The door has been left open to work with Ufret in the future to ship other retired equipment.
"He's even extended an invitation that if we want to bring a baseball team there, he'd arrange for teams from the Carribean to play us."
Hisey is thrilled with the opportunity to expand upon the relationship established.
"I've spent the bulk of my adult career in the military and service and serving others is a big thing for me. Ricky has the same heart. He doesn't have kids but wants to really give back to his community."
Baseball is huge in the Carribean to the point where it can determine who is elected to civic office, says Hisey.