ARLINGTON — When Tad Long arrived in Staten Island, N.Y., to help feed Hurricane Sandy victims, he had no doubt he had made the right decision to embark on the 1,500-mile journey.
Nolan Ryan told him so.
“When I drove up, got out of my van, and saw it sitting there, I kind of felt like, ‘All right, we’re where we are supposed to be,’ ” said Good Shepherd Episcopal School’s director of outdoor education. The “it” in question was a beaten and battered Ryan baseball card lying on the curb, like a calming force amidst all of the destruction.
This morning, Long, his fellow relief workers, and nine lucky Good Shepherd students took that card to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. They were there to get Ryan to autograph the card so that Good Shepherd could include it in the school’s annual spring auction. All of the proceeds from the sale of the card will go directly to Hurricane Sandy relief.
“It’s very special when people are willing to take their time, go the expense that they did, and make the donations they made to people who are experiencing a tragedy like this,” Ryan said. “It’s a big character-builder for these kids. I think they get a lot out of it, and these are some of life’s lessons.”
Long and the small group that made the cross-country trip served meals to around 1,400 people. Additionally, they took two 15-passenger vans, a 16-foot trailer, and three-quarters of a semi filled with donated clothing and blankets and dropped them off at a Galloway, N.J., church. Included in the donations were $10,000 in cash and gift cards for places such as Lowes and Home Depot to help rebuild the devastated area.
“If you were the people who got hit by the hurricane and you didn’t have anything, you would feel really good about what we did,” fourth-grader Jordan Ott said. “When you do something for them, you feel good about it.”
Jordan said she didn’t know much about Ryan until doing some research last night, but she quickly discovered Ryan has thrown a record seven no-hitters. Jordan and the other students got their picture taken with Ryan, who is president of the Texas Rangers.
“For the kids, this just drives home that when you think of others and try to do things to help other people, sometimes good things come back around for you,” said Long, who has been at the school for 14 years. “It’s rewarding for our whole student body to see this whole story continue — it didn’t just end when we got back from our trip.”
Ryan signed the serendipitous baseball card, which shows him in a Houston Astros uniform, and then signed a baseball for each of the kids on the porch outside of his office, which overlooks center field.
“Well, you know, the odds of that happening are pretty slim,” Ryan said. “When you see something like that, it makes you feel good about what you’re doing [about] the devastation people have experienced. My wife’s family is from Staten Island, so I find that very interesting. They still have friends there, so we’re obviously familiar with the devastation people have experienced. It’s kind of unique they went to Staten Island versus New Jersey or something.”
The students — and the adults, too — seemed to be pretty mesmerized by being in the Hall of Famer’s presence.
“It was really cool because we got to meet Nolan Ryan,” eighth-grader Sam Williams said. “When we met him, he was really thankful we had done this. When I heard we were doing this, I was really happy. My grandma lives in Galveston, and she was affected by Hurricane Ike. I’m going to frame it [his baseball] and put it on my shelf.”
In addition to the Rangers pitching in to help, the Dallas Cowboys are also flying in a family that Long met and befriended during the trip for a game this month.
“The cool thing about this is we made so many connections up there and impacted a lot of people by helping them out,” Long said. “The common theme we heard from people is, ‘We don’t know what it’s going to be like in six months or a year from now. With all of the news, there’s a lot of relief effort, but what happens when it kind of dies down?’ This just gives us an opportunity in March to send them another check.”