They won’t be selling tickets to tonight’s baseball game at Bayshore.
Instead, all the fans who file into the bleachers for today’s 7 p.m. game against Gulfport Boca Ciega will be buying tickets for a dream.
Anthony Ramirez’s dream.
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Ramirez is a student at Bayshore. He’s an aspiring poet.
He has cerebral palsy and is in one of Ron Hirst’s reading classes.
Hirst also is Bayshore’s baseball coach. So when Hirst got word that Ramirez needed some money to help him publish a book of poems, Hirst did what he does all spring.
He looked to his players to execute.
And they did.
They decided to host a car wash in front of the high school at noon Saturday. And they decided to donate all of tonight’s proceeds to Ramirez, who has raised $400 himself and needs about $800 total to publish the book.
There’s no admission fee to the game. Fans will be asked to donate whatever they can.
“If someone gives $1, great,” Hirst said, “If they can donate more ... .”
See what sports can do? They bring people together. They spread the word.
And sports breed athletes who learn to attack challenges off the field with the same sort of vigor they use to overcome opponents on the field.
“Before I could even finish talking, they were like, ‘We can do something,’” said Hirst, who watched his players raise money over the summer to help fund a trip to Atlanta. “That’s what I like about this group of players. Anytime something has challenged them, they just say, ‘All right, let’s do this.’”
Tonight they’ll be looking to help Ramirez put his words on pages. Hirst has read some of Ramirez’s poems, which hit on everything from how people perceive him and his illness, his strengths and his patriotism. And will Ramirez will read some of his work and share the name of his book tonight.
“It’s a collection of everything he has gone through,” Hirst said, “and his thoughts.”
The baseball players have gone around school this week equipped with Ramirez’s work and a donation jar.
And Hirst has noticed something: Nearly everyone at Bayshore, athletes or not, has pitched in to help.
Teachers have cut checks. Students in Hirst’s classes have been asking for donations.
“It’s a pretty neat thing going on here at Bayshore,” Hirst said. “It’s not just the baseball players.”
Tonight it will be the baseball players on the field, hopeful that enough people will come out and watch and make Ramirez’s dream a reality.
They will be playing the Pirates.
But the biggest team at Bayshore will be the ones sitting in the stands.
John Lembo, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2097.