The highlight of Ron Clements’ nationwide summer journey happened in Milwaukee.
“Home Run on Wheels” took Clements, an Aquinas High School graduate, and his wife, Patti, around America and Canada to bring awareness to the needs of children through a partnership with the Children’s Hope Alliance, which helps foster kids find safe environments.
As planned, the two visited all 30 ballparks. The first was Marlins Park in Miami, and the final stop was Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where Ron, a sportswriter, spent much of his career. Ron has worked for CBS Sports, The Sporting News and has freelanced for several newspapers, including the Tribune.
The goal was for 10 teams to pitch in with tickets for foster kids. Five franchises stepped up.
One of those were the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brewers donated 50 tickets to their July 21 game against the Cardinals on behalf of ANU Family Services, headquartered out of Eau Claire, Wis.
“That’s the most tickets a Major League Baseball team donated,” Clements said. “That’s a nice chunk, and it was against the Cardinals, too. There was a little four-year-old boy sitting next to us. We were up in the 400 level, but he’s yelling down at the field like we’re sitting behind home plate. It was fantastic.”
The connection to get the Brewers tickets happened through Westby High School graduate Matt Roesler. Cheryl Larson, who used to work for ANU, connected Ron with Roesler.
Roesler got the Clements the tickets, and when the two men met in a Caledonia, Wis., RV park, they found out Ron’s aunt used to be married to Roesler’s cousin.
“It was a total small-world thing,” Ron said.
Then, Roesler helped the couple connect with Family Alternatives in Minneapolis Executive Director Mary Lennick to score tickets from the Twins. The Twins donated 30 tickets to their July 8 game against Baltimore.
For some of the kids, according to Lennick, this was the first time to a ballgame.
“Our kids usually come from low-income families and are removed due to neglect,” Lennick said. “They weren’t at Twins games, for example. It provided kids to go to the ballpark on a Saturday afternoon and sit in the sun and have fun, which sounds simple at its core. That’s what we strive to give to our kids.”
According to a report by the Wisconsin State Journal last December, there were 7,482 Wisconsin children in foster care.
“You’re not in foster care involuntary,” Lennick added. “We take it really seriously to give children a normal childhood experience. That’s what a baseball game is. It’s really cool for Ron to think of us in that kind of manner. We want to provide them a chance to have fun and promote visibility to the child-welfare community.”
The other franchises that donated tickets were the Marlins, Tigers and Rockies. Ron and Patti raised money to buy tickets for a Cardinals game in September and donated the tickets.
“That’s something we’re really proud of,” Ron said. “Getting kids out to a game was kind of a bonus, and the fact we were able to do that in six stadiums is great.”
Of course, Ron wanted more teams to help out. There were six other teams who reached out, but there were “scheduling conflicts.”
As the couple drove around in their livable giant billboard (RV), people noticed — even in the most unpredictable places.
When Ron and Patti were driving through South Carolina, they stopped at a rest area. As Ron was leaving the restroom, a man in a waste management vehicle recognized Ron after visiting the Home Run on Wheels web site and knocked on the driver’s side window.
“That’s the kind of thing we wanted to do, because the whole thing was to inspire people to get involved somehow, whether it’s through fostering or adopting or just volunteering at a foster care organization,” Ron said.
Ron wants to do a travel tour like this again, and if he and Patti take to the road again, they’ll be better prepared.
“I don’t know if we’d go to all 30 stadiums again, but maybe those (six) cities,” Ron said. “In a couple years, the Rangers are going to have a new stadium. So, maybe we do it again.”