There are those genuine, charitable people of the world who make monetary donations, run marathons or even raise awareness for the perils of cancer.
Then there is Tim Riley.
The 25-year-old Temple graduate has immersed himself with a summer blended between baseball and cancer research fundraising. His mission-in-progress is to visit all 189 professional and minor league baseball stadiums throughout the United States and Canada.
“This opportunity came about and it was just like a chance to do something good, a chance to travel the country, a chance to see baseball,” Riley said. “It’s like all these things where you can’t go wrong. All those factors combined is like – no pun intended – but it’s like a home run as far as a decision to make.”
The idea spawned from an acquaintance who had previously attempted the same feat last summer. To raise money, Riley auctions baseball memorabilia at each stadium he visits. The memorabilia is primarily provided by the team hosting Riley.
Proceeds of auctioned merchandise benefit the Boston Red Sox’s Jimmy Fund, which caters to those battling cancer. Riley has raised close to $20,000 and has just under a month to complete his assignment.
“At minor league stadiums, that’s where we do the real fundraising,” Riley said. “We set up a table and the team donates a signed item – like a signed baseball bat or a signed jersey or something like that.”
Riley’s lofty goal took a self-estimated 100 hours of scheduling preparation, not to mention the initial sponsoring he needed to begin his trek. After what Riley said seemed like an eternity of financial saving and perusing, he found the break he was looking for in baseball bat manufacturer, Louisville Slugger. The company added $10,000 to the cause.
Overcoming setbacks became a regular theme for Riley since his trip started in April. The journey has provided a few speed bumps along the way, but will conclude on Sept. 9 at Citizens Bank Park
“The world of fundraising is extremely competitive so it can be kind of frustrating and kind of difficult at times, because you have to sort of respect the space and the mission and whatever [another] group is fundraising for,” he said. “But at the same time you have to try to fundraise as much money as you can for your part as well.”
Riley often faced the challenge of having other competing organizations present at several games.
The mental and physical drain of the continuous daily travel was another issue Riley contended with. He attended numerous double-headers and even saw a triple-header on July 26.
“I’ll go to one game in one city and I’ll drive like two or three hours, and I’ll go to another game in another city at night,” Riley said. “There are times where the days are really long and sometimes you travel five or six hours. The typical day starts around 7 a.m. and ends around midnight.”
The non-stop schedule Riley causes him to adapt to a new lifestyle.
“Physically I’m completely exhausted,” Riley said. “I try to budget between $5 and $10 a day for food. I’m barely living a regular lifestyle, I’m essentially homeless.”
Despite enduring hours of grueling traveling, Riley said he wouldn’t trade his experiences for anything.
“You’re meeting tons of nice people,” Riley said. “You’re meeting tons of people who have been affected by cancer and they can appreciate what you’re doing. And you can appreciate what they have gone through.”
Traveling around the country has given Riley the opportunity to enjoy a few perks along the way. He has thrown out the first pitch at 42 different minor-league stadiums and witnessed Alex Rodriguez’s 500th home run at Yankee Stadium.
Riley, who graduated from Temple in 2004, continues to inspire many with his charity work, but will be in search of a job when he returns from his trip.
“It would be really awesome to write a book about it – sort of the baseball world and the traveling part and all that stuff,” Riley said. “If not, then I have to find a job, because I quit my job to do this. Basically, I’m back where I started after I graduated from Temple.”
Anthony Stipa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.