West Virginia Black Bears ball players gathered Saturday, but not at the Monongalia County Ballpark.
This time, they met up at Mylan Park to lend a hand at Operation Welcome Home, in appreciation for U.S. military members.
Operation Welcome Home helps veterans acclimate back to the civilian job market. The nonprofit offers resources to help them become successful in civilian jobs after they leave the military, said CEO Brett Simpson. He said the day allows for visibility of Operation Welcome Home and shows the Black Bears are not only about baseball, but about giving back.
Cooper the Black Bears’ mascot, plus others like the pepperoni rolls that race around the field at baseball games, mingled with veterans in the morning.
In the evening, they headed down to the ballpark to the Military Appreciation Game, where the Black Bears took on the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. The players were also sporting camouflage jerseys.
“This is the fourth year that we’ve done this. The players will wear those jerseys and throughout the course of the game those jerseys will be auctioned off, and all the proceeds from those auctions will come back to support Welcome Home,” Simpson said.
Simpson said between the jersey auction and a 50/50 raffle, it proves to be a great tribute to military servicemen and women and a great fundraiser for Operation Welcome Home.
The nonprofit offers an array of services such as resume help, mock interviews, budgeting classes and information sessions on things like VA benefits.
Simpson said he’s excited to be working with the Black Bears to do this for veterans. Since the Black Bears came to Morgantown they have been great partners with Operation Welcome Home and show great respect for veterans and the military community.
Jackie Riggleman, business manager for the lack Bears, said the jersey auction numbers have been promising since going live online Thursday.
“We do have a large outpouring of support by our fans,” she said.
Something new offered this year was the option for game attendees to buy a Military Appreciation Ticket, allowing for proceeds to go back to Operation Welcome Home. The stadium also has a POW chair, a seat left empty to honor those lost during service.
Riggleman said the Black Bears are grateful for both the military and the community, adding the team wouldn’t be where it is without the community’s support.