All it took was a tweet.
@JohnnyDamon south orange little league needs your help asap.— melinda white (@mwhite6556) March 12, 2015
Melinda White, on behalf of the South Orange Little League, reached out Johnny Damon, the former Major League Baseball player and two-time World Series champion for help.
Damon, after all, grew up playing baseball with South Orange Little League before going on to play baseball at Dr. Phillips High School. He was drafted 35th overall by the Kansas City Royals in 1992.
But the story isn't just about Damon.
News 13 first reported March 9 that about $25,000 was withdrawn from the league's bank account over a six-month span. The theft has forced 13 teams to cut their seasons short as they try to make up the money. The league's board of directors believes a now-former board member is responsible for taking the funds, which were withdrawn out of the league's account in $100 and $3,000 increments, according to bank statements.
After a series of tweets sent by White, Damon replied.
@mwhite6556 that's no good, let's come up w a plan so we can all help— Johnny Damon (@JohnnyDamon) March 12, 2015
Saturday was Opening Day for the league. A long line waited for Damon to sign autographs and take pictures at South Orange Park.
People were encouraged to make donations before snapping a picture with Damon.
"It looks like we're doing the right thing," Damon said. "We're raising the money and, like I said, the most important thing is to get these kids out playing this year. This time is going to create many memories for them — just like it did for me."
Cheryl Boudreault, a South Orange Little League board member, said shaking Damon's hand and simply saying thank you wasn't enough for the way he came through for the league that helped him hone his skills on the diamond.
"That was just unbelievable," she said. "With us going out and tweeting him yesterday. Within a matter of two to three minutes, he responded back. He is just such a humble and kind man."
After hearing about the news, employees at the Houston Astros spring training complex in Kissimmee also stepped up to help provide game balls and free tickets to spring training games.
Amanda Bowman said her boss was very receptive and willing to help when she pitched the idea. The Astros also plan to accept donations for the South Orange Little League at upcoming spring training games.
"We're in the same county, and it's in our backyard," Bowman said. "The head of our facility played Little League here. Half of our staff all grew up here playing Little League. Everybody wants to ... pay it forward. ... Everyone had a Little League that they participated in and made them love the sport."
League officials said they are working with law enforcement to pursue charges against the person suspected of stealing the money.
Many people who were at the fields Saturday knew Damon because of baseball. Jesus Acevedo, however, doesn't player baseball. He still knows who Damon is.
"When I high-fived him ... I'm not going to wash this hand again because I know he's a really good player, and I felt some, like, magic going through his hands," Acevedo said. "I don't know, it just feels awesome."
League officials said the spring season almost was cancelled. Instead, the league started a few weeks late and with 13 teams instead of 21.
Damon still owns a house in Central Florida. He played for six MLB teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011.
"I know I'm up there in age, so it's good that they remember me from winning championships and playing the game the right way," Damon said. "Hopefully, there’s another big leaguer in the crowd here."
But, as they say, the game must go on.
Great to help South Orange Little League raise money which was stolen so they can play ball this… https://t.co/kSEM8BnBke— Johnny Damon (@JohnnyDamon) March 14, 2015