CLEVELAND - "Yes I'm going to be throwing," said Nancy Ruiz as she nervously held the white, leather baseball in her hand.
Ruiz is the mother of Gina DeJesus, who went missing back in 2004. Ruiz participated in a first pitch ceremony in honor of her daughter, a first for the grieving mother who stepped out in front of hundreds to throw the first pitch Wednesday at Progressive Field.
"We've done our program throughout minor league baseball and we also work with the major league Pittsburgh Pirates where we're from," said Dennis Bair. He's the man behind Wednesday's first pitch ceremony. Bair made it all possible through his organization, the BairFind. And bringing Ruiz to throw the first pitch in honor of her daughter is all part of Bair's program called, "BringHome100."
"It's important because there's a lot of missing children in America and this is a challenge we need to rise to. What better place than a stadium full of sports fans. Athletes, I'm a former athlete myself, athletes and sports fans recognize a challenge and they rise to it. And that's what they got to do when it comes to our missing children," said Bair.
When Bair had Ruiz throw the first pitch at an Akron Arrows game, Bair said the team displayed DeJesus' photo on the jumbo screen, showed her photos on posters and made sure the word circulated that after all this time, Gina DeJesus is still missing.
Bair had Ruiz do the same for another minor league game but this time was the first time both had the opportunity to spread the message at a major league game. For the mom who's been holding vigils and searching endlessly for about 8 years now, Ruiz said Wednesday was another gift. She described trying to keep the memory of her daughter alive, trying on the entire family.
"It takes a lot of resources," said Ruiz, "It's been very hard because I don't have the opportunity to, or people like Dennis Bair that offers his help to help me. I mean this is awesome. A lot of people think that it's not but to throw the first pitch at the Cleveland Indians' it's awesome."
Unfortunately for Bair and Ruiz, during the ceremony, photos of Gina DeJesus and others missing did not air on the Cleveland Indians' jumbo screen. So while fans heard Gina DeJesus' name, they couldn't see her picture.
Bair said, "It was very disappointing because I know sports fans. I'm a former athlete myself. Everywhere that we've gone, we've put the profiles up and the people, the fans, they're very supportive."
A spokesperson for the Cleveland Indians says this was due to some miscommunication but both the Cleveland Indians and the BairFund folks were still excited at the opportunity Wednesday.
Bair said he and another with the Cleveland Indians are working to possibly create a "Missing" program for next season where Indians players will even participate in public service announcements.
For right now, that's still in the works. In the meantime Bair said we will soon be seeing "BringHome100" at Pittsburgh Steelers and Penguins games as they work to expand their reach to more major league stadiums and games.
Bair said, "If there's a missing child, we're going to work to profile that missing child because to not do this is not good enough."
For more information visit: http://www.bringhome100.org/
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