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October 25, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

Sunrise Mountain baseball overwhelmed with community support after burglary, season saved

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Baseball coach Nick Grove and player Bryce Durham stand next to the baseball storage shed at Sunrise Mountain High School on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. At some point during the previous summer, the shed was broken into and almost everything was stolen.

Donations to Sunrise Mountain HS baseball

Nick Grove can’t help feeling humbled by the support his high school baseball team received last week.

My story on the Sunrise Mountain High School program having most of its gear stolen from an on-campus storage unit was posted for just a few hours last week on the Sun’s website when supporters starting reaching out to the school offering to help. They contacted me, too.

One week later, I’m proud to report the gear will be replaced — all thanks to Sun readers. You guys showed your true colors, proving again how passionate our high school sports community is. Roughly $10,000 worth of equipment was taken last summer, leaving Grove, a first-year coach, and his team of underprivileged players in a big-time pickle.

That’s until you saved their season.

Grove reports about $20,000 was donated by multiple families and business owners, and 10 baseball programs across the area gave new or second-hand gear. Two big-leaguers — former Las Vegas High player Bryce Harper and Summerlin resident Shane Victorino — even pitched in.

Nobody had to help Sunrise Mountain, which opened five years ago north of Lake Mead Boulevard and east of Nellis Boulevard in one of Las Vegas’ poorest neighborhoods. The team is composed of seasonal players, most of whom don’t have the resources to purchase updated equipment. Some arrive with worn-out cleats or no cleats at all and might need to borrow a glove from a teammate.

Having the basics — balls, bats, catcher’s gear, bases and tools to manicure the field — stolen was looking impossible for them to overcome without your assistance. With the season set to begin in early March, the plan was to borrow gear from opposing teams to have games; practices had been mostly postponed.

Now they’ll have a season. Everything will be replaced and they’ll have extra left over to upgrade uniforms for the first time in five seasons. The players might also get individualized batting gloves, team shoes and extra apparel — stuff that’s common at schools in better areas but not attainable with Sunrise Mountain’s limited resources.

“This has really changed my perspective on Las Vegas,” said Grove, who moved here from Williamsport, Pa., a few years ago. “I’m from a small town in the Northeast where things are different. But I learned Vegas is just like a small town. It has small-time roots where people want to see kids succeed.”

On the first day the story was posted, $3,000 was donated through the school’s website. By the time the school day ended, Grove had heard from multiple programs offering everything from a dozen baseballs to used helmets. The donations came from as far as Boulder City and Summerlin, as well as other schools in northeast Las Vegas and an elementary school.

You didn’t care about the neighborhood the school was located in or the background of the players. Rather, you realized it was a Las Vegas kid in need and came to the rescue.

“It’s our community, bro. One of us gets hit, we all get hit,” Palo Verde coach Kevin Fiddler said in a text message.

Officials at Eastbay, a worldwide apparel and equipment provider, contacted Sunrise Mountain officials over the weekend offering to give them half off pricing on anything they ordered. A few days later, a booster from one local program agreed to pay a significant part of the bill.

While Sunrise Mountain is set with equipment for the next few seasons, Grove has stressed to players that they will still be fundraising to continue restocking the program. And that fundraising will start before the season because he wants players to appreciate the gear they’ve received. Grove’s approach is refreshing.

“My kids will feel they’ve earned everything instead of having something handed to them,” Grove said. “I don’t want the community to think the kids are happy and they are settling. My kids will understand the value of hard work.”

They plan to do a free car wash at the school, have an outfield sign listing and thanking all of the donors, and host a cookout for schools that donated gear.

Last week, Sunrise Mountain players thought their season could be in jeopardy. This week, they’re excited to get on the diamond, thankful the community gave them the gift of baseball.

“For once, it’s exciting to be part of Sunrise Mountain baseball,” Grove said. “I’m so excited for the older returning players. They will actually look like one of those big-time teams this year. This is a different part of town and they’ve never had that opportunity before. There have been ups and down, but mostly downs, for some of these kids. I’m really excited for them.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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