Reese Osterberg is just nine years old, but she’s developed a habit: Whenever there’s a baseball game on television — particularly her favorite team, the Giants — she whips out her binder of baseball cards and starts lining them up, reorganizing specific ones into the corresponding positions on the diamond.
When she’s not inside, Reese is trying out her best home run swing and competing with her best friends on their team, the Pirates. If there’s no game, Reese pores over her card collection at the table with her sister, Rylee.
“She loves learning about the players,” her mother, Amy Osterberg, said over the phone. “She loves talking about the players.”
When the Osterbergs’ home in Pine Ridge was hit with evacuation warnings due to the Creek Fire in September, Reese’s first instinct was to grab her baseball glove. When she found out their home had burned down, she immediately thought about her prized possessions.
“Mom, did Dad get my baseball cards?”
Amy shook her head no. To salve the devastation the night of the fire, Reese’s uncle rushed to a hobby store to pick up a pack of baseball cards and a binder for Reese and her sister. It would do for the time being.
But the damage was done. Reese’s collection of 200 cards she’d compiled over three years was burned to ashes. It was a collection that started with a few packs she got one Easter in her basket that built as her loved ones nurtured a growing passion. It included bundles her grandparents gifted, and three Buster Posey cards — her absolute favorite player.
She wrote a letter to Posey. Part of it read:
“…I am writing this letter to you because I lost my favorite card in the Creek Fire. It was your card…”
Amy wasn’t sure the best way to mail it to Posey or the Giants, so she sent it to a friend in local law enforcement, and Reese’s story took off. Local authorities and Cal Fire in Fresno County sent out a plea on the CalFire/Fresno County Fire Facebook page asking those able to donate whatever cards they had lying around to Reese and several other Pirates who’d lost family homes in the fire.
“We can’t wait to see who will ‘step up to the plate’ and donate baseball cards to these fantastic children,” the post read, noting that a mental health professional in the area had already donated a bundle including an old card depicting Brooklyn Dodgers legend Pee Wee Reese. The plea hit KMJ, the local radio station, and word flew to the South Bay radio waves.
Kevin Ashford of San Jose knew he could help, too.
Ashford didn’t have just a few cards strewn in a junk drawer. He had over 25,000 baseball cards stored and organized in the garage of his South Bay home. It was a collection Ashford had been growing since the 90s.
“I got to thinking about what I have out here in the garage,” Ashford told NBC Bay Area. “I thought, you know what, rather than sell these on eBay, I’m just going to donate them. I’m gonna donate them all and put a smile on a little girl’s face.”
The Osterberg family couldn’t believe it when they heard about the donation. They still can’t quite find the right way to say thank you — they haven’t met or spoken to Ashford yet.
“Mom, my mind just exploded,” Reese said when Amy told her she’d be getting a whole new collection. Perhaps with players of a different era Reese could learn more about.
“My intention is just to make a little girl happy,” Ashford said.
The Osterbergs hope they can share in that bit of happiness with the rest of the community who lost homes and jobs in the Creek Fire, which has now burned more than 378,000 acres. Their first idea is to host a socially-distanced pizza and baseball card party at the local Sierra Junior and Senior High School, where Reese’s father, Sean Osterberg, is the principal.
“It would be fun for them to do after everything that’s happened,” Amy said. “I know for Reese, she’s super excited about sharing all of them.”
Reese will keep some for herself, of course. The Osterberg family has been coping with the loss of their home by dreaming up ways to create their new life and new home. Reese proposed a bedroom with black and orange walls plastered with some of her new baseball cards.
As the ash settles in Fresno County, the Osterbergs are still in flux, living at Reese’s grandparents home in Clovis. Amy, a teacher, is trying to find a way to do her job virtually. All the comforts of home are misplaced or burned.
A brand new baseball card collection helped ground them again; Reese is rebuilding her collection wherever they go.
“With all the chaos around her,” Amy said, “that’s just her way to to say, ‘Doesn’t matter what’s happening — this is normal for me to sit and study my cards.’”
Source: Orange County Register