Baseball is considered the national past time, but for troops serving overseas even getting in on a simple game of catch can be hard to do.

The Greater Egg Harbor Chamber of Commerce is hoping to brighten the lives of U.S. service members by teaming up with Gloves 4 Troops, an organization that ships baseball gloves, balls and letters of encouragement to American military personnel stationed across the globe.

Gloves 4 Troops was started by baseball player Vance Albitz, a second baseman for the AAA St. Louis Cardinals affiliate Memphis Redbirds, and over the past two years the organization has sent thousands of gloves overseas.

"As soon as I heard about this, I knew we had to get involved in this patriotic cause," said Chamber President Jim Schroeder, who grew up playing in area Little League and is still involved as a coach.

Schroeder said he learned about the Gloves 4 Troops program from his friend and fellow chamber member, Nick Polito.

A real estate agent in the Hammonton-Mullica area, Polito said he first heard of the program during a recent TV broadcast.

"It struck me immediately, and I just took the message to heart. Baseball is a connection to home for our troops. I've got relatives who are currently in the military and family members who are veterans, so I relate to this," said Polito, 43.

With the help of area businesses, the chamber set up donation boxes at three area locations that will be available to the public until Memorial Day weekend.

People can drop off either old or new baseball gloves and balls, which will be packaged and boxed and shipped to the Gloves 4 Troops volunteer organization, which is based in California. Money donations will be accepted and used to buy new items.

"We're really excited to be involved. We'll take old or new gloves, anything that we can forward to the troops will be appreciated," said Schroeder, who added that letters of encouragement to service members can also be dropped off at the donation boxes.

Schroeder, 43, a local attorney and also a pastor at Crossroads Church in Shamong Township, became president of the 54-member Chamber of Commerce about 3 years ago and has worked to refocus community involvement, he said.

"This is a project that hits home with a lot of us, baseball and the military," said Schroeder.

He said about 30 baseball gloves and dozens of baseballs have been collected so far. He is hoping they will be able to collect a lot more before the drive ends later this month.

Contact Lucia C. Drake:

609-272-7295

How to help

Locations

Dropoff locations are Simply Sweet Cupcakes, 132 Philadelphia Ave., Egg Harbor City; Century 21 Frick Realtors, 117 W. White Horse Pike, Galloway Township; or Casciano's Coffee Bar & Sweetery, 212 Bellevue Ave., Hammonton.

What to give

Gloves, baseballs and letters of appreciation and encouragement can be dropped off at the business locations any time until Memorial Day weekend.

For more information

Contact project coordinator Nick Polito of Century 21 Reilly Realtors at 609-705-7782, or Chamber President Jim Schroeder at 609-270-7590 or see