Last season, I had the privilege to meet and do a story on a young man who was attempting to make a difference.
That young man is 20-year-old and Point Park student Zac Weiss.
Weiss is one of those youngsters who has never seen a Pittsburgh Pirates' winning season, but that hasn't stopped him from being a lifelong Bucco fan and doing something positive along the way.
Last summer I learned about Weiss and his cause, which was called Ballhawking 2011: Proudly Supporting the Children's Institute.
Everyone has seen the guys at Major League Baseball games rushing around to collect balls in the stands. Weiss is one of those guys, but he doesn't try and make a profit for himself by selling the souvenirs to the highest bidder.
Instead he does something else. Something admirable for anyone, especially someone only 20 years of age.
Weiss had decided to collect as many balls as he could during the season and then auction them off. All the proceeds Weiss made would go directly to the Children's Institute.
"I had to spend some time at the Children's Institute as a child," Weiss told me last summer. "I know what type of difference they can make in a child's life. I'm a college kid with not much money in my pocket, but this is my way of trying to make a difference and help out."
When we spoke at an Atlanta Braves game last season, Weiss was just getting his cause off the ground.
By the end of the 2011 Pirates season, Weiss had caught 137 baseballs and raised over $600 for the charity.
It doesn't sound like a ton of money, but for a young man just doing what he can, it might as well be $600,000.
"I try and keep things very reasonable," said Weiss. "I'm not trying to be an EBay type of thing. I got a ball autographed by Kirk Gibson who hit one of the most memorable homers in baseball history and is one very good manager and only sold it for $20. I don't think people should have to pay crazy prices."
Weiss has goals for the 2012 season, but they are of a different variety.
"I want to continue raising money for charity, but I applied for an internship with the Pirates," said Weiss. "My main goal is to get that, but if I don't, I plan on being at about 50 games this season, assuming I stay in good health."
If he's out chasing baseballs in 2012, Weiss has some goals already set for himself.
"I'd like to get 206 this season," added Weiss. "That's about the number I've caught total in my life. If we don't have 15 batting practices rained out like the Bucs did last year, I may have a chance."
Several of the Pirates have been very supportive of what Weiss is doing, including manager Clint Hurdle and All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan.
"Hurdle is involved with the Children's Institute as well," said Weiss. "I got to meet and talk to him before a Saturday batting practice. The Pirates equipment manager gave me a Lyle Overbay autographed bat and I also received positive reactions from both Hanrahan and Daniel McCutchen."
Anyone interested in checking on the progress Weiss is making or making a contribution to the Children's Institute can contact him on Twitter @wewill1992 or by email at email@example.com.
These days there aren't may positive stories in the world of sports, but what Weiss has been doing is certainly one of them. He thinks his efforts for charity could be joined by a winning season for the Pirates.
"That's what I really want to see," added Weiss. "I think they are close and on the verge of turning things around. I can't wait for Opening Day. Let's Go, Bucs."
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