ALLEGANY, N.Y. – When St. Bonaventure University senior Josh Koszuta began getting calls from those willing to donate softball and baseball equipment for some Mississippi Little Leaguers, he set out in his car to pick up the donations.
He quickly learned that the outpouring of support from individuals, businesses and organizations in the Southern Tier was far greater than the size of his Cavalier.
The equipment drive, part of the BonaResponds massive spring break relief effort in Mississippi and Louisiana, resulted in enough bats, balls, helmets, gloves and shin guards to fill a moving van, an RV and a trailer.
On March 5, Koszuta and others who spearheaded the collection effort, including students Carrie Jackling and Ryan Nicole Hasper, attended a picnic hosted by the president of the Hancock County, Miss., softball league, coaches and several players.
“They were really appreciative of it. They were shocked about the amount of equipment we gave them,” Koszuta said.
Herb Sires is the Hancock County Little League softball director. “We had no idea how much stuff was coming down to us. When it finally came, I was overwhelmed,” he said.
Initially the students wanted to be able to replace the equipment for a couple teams. The generosity of donors will help make this season a reality for several hundred children in Bay St. Louis, Miss., and Waveland, Miss.
Koszuta said that the 13 teams in the Hancock County softball league will share some of the donations with a neighboring county’s baseball league, which is providing the softball players with a field to use this season.
During the week of disaster relief (March 3-11), Koszuta saw how important that equipment — and the opportunity for the children and teens to get together — will be.
“I’ve got a picture of a gymnasium with a whole wall knocked out,” he said.
Sires said that most of the media’s attention has been focuses on New Orleans and Biloxi. “It was nice for the kids around here in Hancock County to know that someone cares about them,” he said.
Koszuta, a baseball coach and umpire, may get the opportunity to see the 852 balls, 55 softball helmets, 260 baseball helmets, 82 gloves and other equipment put to good use.
The softball league representatives have extended an open invitation for him to attend or possibly ump a game. “We’re definitely going back this summer,” he said.
“I look forward to reciprocating to everyone who came down here and helped us. I can’t wait to show them how much we appreciate it,” Sires added.
Koszuta, a physical education major, expressed his gratitude to the SBU softball team and the many alumni who aided in the collection and donations. An alumnus from Connecticut, Tom Lagasse, undertook his own donation drive to assist, as did the Police Athletic League of Buffalo.