PHOENIX — When Diamondbacks closer Brad Ziegler was a member of the Oakland Athletics’ bullpen in 2009, the team had a program where players could purchase tickets to donate to nonprofit organizations of their choice.
“Some of the guys had done the first responders, you know, cops, fire department, ambulance workers, etc. Some guys had done the Boys and Girls Club, that kind of thing, but no one had done military yet,” Ziegler said.
So Ziegler decided to pay for tickets that would go to military families, but he quickly realized there was so much more he could do.
“The more we got to know these families, the more we got to realize there are so many other ways we could help that helps take their mind off their loved one overseas,” Ziegler said.
With that in mind, Ziegler founded Pastime for Patriots, a foundation that focuses on giving baseball tickets to veterans and their families as well as funding academic scholarships for children of fallen servicemen and women and sponsoring baby showers for military families, according to the organization’s website.
Pastime for Patriots has raised more than $20,000 in seven years and given away more than 17,000 tickets to military members and their families, partly thanks to Dback Nation, a Diamondbacks’ fan group.
Players give autographed memorabilia to Dback Nation and the group in turn auctions off the merchandise to fans and donates the money earned to a variety of foundations, including Ziegler’s, according to the group’s co-founder.
“[It provides] a sense of community for all of us Diamondbacks fans, because we appreciate what Brad does on the field for us as fans and it’s just our way of letting him know we appreciate what he does,” said Adrienne Knoblock, the group’s co-founder. “We’re huge supporters of our military, on top of that, because of all of their sacrifices. It’s also that a lot of us are parents, so it helps teach our kids that value and respect of giving back to your community.”
Knoblock’s daughter began donating her allowance to Pastime for Patriots when she was just 10.
“She’s a really big baseball fan,” Knoblock said. “She just took a liking to Brad instantly and saw what he did and wanted to help.”
Knoblock was inspired by her daughter and after helping form Dback Nation, had the group reach out to Ziegler’s organization.
“They came to us,” Ziegler said. “And every year, when we get a check from them, we’re just blown away.”
With the money it receives, Pastime for Patriots allocates funds to several organizations, including Operation Shower, a national foundation that hosts baby showers for up to 80 military families at a time.
“We’ve come to Arizona to host a shower in Phoenix the last three years and Brad and his wife Kristen and his organization have been a part of those three showers as far as being a sponsor and providing gifts to the moms,” said LeAnn Morrissey, chief shower officer and board member. “They picked out gifts that they enjoyed or that were really helpful to them with their babies.”
— BirdiesfortheBrave (@BirdiesForBrave) January 28, 2014
At the the annual showers held at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Ziegler and his wife Kristen have given each new mom the same present: a podster. The podster is an egg-shaped pillow that allows parents to lay their baby down just about anywhere in a safe and comfortable place.
“[Podsters] were amazing for us when we were new parents,” Ziegler said. “We want to share them with everybody else.”
But it doesn’t stop at baby showers and gifts. The money raised also provides funding for an organization called Freedom Alliance. Through Freedom Alliance, Pastime for Patriots helps students whose parents have lost their lives or been permanently disabled during service.
“They were trying to give us some freedoms and in the process, lost their lives doing it, so I didn’t want the kids to be hindered,” Ziegler said. “They only have one parent trying to help support them through college, so we definitely wanted to help out.”
For Ziegler, his passion for the military stems from personal interests in history, but his desire to help comes from the ability to do so.
“We wanted to do something unique,” Ziegler said. “Anybody sitting at their house can do the care package thing, but not everybody can provide baseball tickets.”