The Santa Barbara Foresters heard only their own cheers last summer despite winning their eighth National Baseball Congress World Series championship.
The COVID-19 pandemic kept Pershing Park empty all summer.
But the local summer collegiate club brought holiday cheer to the Central Coast last week by delivering Christmas trees and lights, presents, books, and gingerbread houses to families battling serious illness and misfortune.
“One gal had tears in her eyes while bringing her tree inside,” said Bill Pintard, the Foresters’ manager for the last 26 years. “I asked a guy in my broken Spanish about it, and he said she’d never had a tree before … that they could never afford one.”
Compass Real Estate and John Nesbit helped sponsor the event for the fourth straight year and deliver trees, many of which were donated by Ed Miller at Anthony’s Trees.
“The families were all so grateful,” Pintard said, “and doing this really helped me bone up on my Spanish.”
The club received its own present while visiting the home of Jill Mott, its Hugs for Cubs Kid for 2019. Mott, the daughter of Blair and Aime Mott, told the Foresters that she had finished her leukemia treatment and was now cancer-free.
“It was so great to see Jill and to see her so happy,” Foresters president Christina Songer said. “She has worked so hard, and we were just happy to be able to help her and her family through their journey to health.
“And she told us she just learned to ride a bike, too.”
Although the Motts already had a tree, Pintard gave them lights for decoration as well as a gingerbread house.
“We take our good fortune for granted, but this was so rewarding,” he said. “It’s as good as getting any trophy.”
Pintard’s son Eric, who both pitched and coached for the Foresters, started the Hugs for Cubs program after coming down with cancer himself. He passed away from the disease in 2004. But his dad carried on the torch. Eric’s sister, Kelby, even started a Hugs for Cubs chapter at Santa Barbara High when she attended the school.
“We remember Eric and try to pass on his spirit and courage and attitude to anyone who needs our help,” Songer said.
The Foresters’ players and staff take the Hugs for Cubs children and their families to such summer events as Major League Baseball games, bowling at Zodo’s, a Surf Day, and the United Way Fun in the Sun Camps.
“We want our players to become great people and great baseball players,” Pintard said. “The Hugs program is our chance to give back to the people who support us on the field.
“And remember, these kids facing cancer are tougher than any of our guys staring down a nasty curveball.”
The players and coaches also make hospital visits in both Wichita, Kan. — site of the NBC World Series — and Santa Barbara.
“It was too bad that we couldn’t go to any hospital this year because of COVID, but we’ll be back in the swing of things next year,” Pintard said.
The Foresters’ two big fundraisers — a golf tournament and Hall of Fame Banquet — are tentatively scheduled for February. The pandemic, however, has put those events in jeopardy. Those who wish to donate to Hugs for Cubs can find information on the team’s website: sbforesters.org.