Paying it forward: Baseball players raise money for good cause

COMBS — Baseball players practiced their hitting as they waited for their guest of honor at the Alejandro Martinez Baseball Academy.

And after countless line-drive practice hits, she arrived.

San Benito resident Ayssa Mercado, 5, was in her stroller strapped and covered with a pink blanket as her parents rolled her through the baseball facility.

The sound of the ball making contact with the bat and the sight of Coach Alejandro Martinez checking his players’ hitting stances was all she and her parents could see and hear as they walked to the baseball field. That’s where they were to receive a check from the San Benito Youth Baseball and Softball League.

The money had been raised for Ayssa at the first MPEC2 Baseball and Softball camp held last Sunday.

Under the baseball field’s lights between home plate and first base the Mercado family was presented with a check in the amount of $3,700 to help pay for Ayssa’s medical expenses and needs.

“We are a baseball family and we want to help anywhere we can,” said Omar Gonzalez, San Benito Youth Baseball and Softball League president.

Ayssa has a respiratory illness, suffers from seizures and a rare neurological disease called MECP2 that prevents normal growth of the body and muscles and hinders normal daily body functions.

It was San Benito resident Nathaniel Garcia’s participation in a home run derby at the Florida Marlins Park during the International Youth Baseball Camp that started it all. He hit a home run that won $479 for Ayssa. The prize money equaled the distance of his longest home run. That sparked the idea to organize a baseball camp to help raise more money for Ayssa.

The camp did not disappoint.

It brought former Major League Baseball professionals to help train the youth of the Valley on the baseball diamond for the good cause.

“I had asked my dad to help me organize a baseball camp because, I have always gone to big show camps with professional players coaching and what a better idea to get professional players to come down here and help my friends, cousins and players in the Valley,” Garcia said.

“It was fun because I got to teach them what I have learned.”

More than 200 players attended the baseball camp held at Stookey Park. The afternoon practice of America’s favorite pastime featured some of the area’s former professional baseball players and others who traveled from as far as Houston to help players learn batting, fielding and pitching techniques.

“It was something amazing. Oh wow, kids were fired up ready to go. We had 12 former major league players giving the instruction,” Gonzalez said. “The whole idea was about Ayssa and what Nathaniel was doing for her.”

Each player who participated in the camp paid $5 to play. Area businesses sponsored the event and donated to the cause that helped raise awareness of MECP2 and rounded up funds to help Ayssa pay for medical equipment and doctor visits.

“I was excited to see so many people there. We didn’t know it was such a big fundraiser,” said Erica Mercado, Ayssa’s mother. “It was just like, wow, and vary amazed.”

She said the event helped spread awareness of MECP2 and the family was thankful for Nathaniel. The money is going to help Ayssa get what she needs.

“We are just thankful,” Mercado said.