Our Opinion: Pitch in Sunday to knock hunger out of the park

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If a can of corn is an easily catchable pop fly in baseball's rich language of metaphor, then collecting three tons of canned goods is a loftier feat — a home run. 

The Wilson Tobs, their fans and community partners have gathered more than 6,000 pounds of food donations during the Home Run for Hunger season of giving, and the charitable effort concludes with Sunday's celebration at Fleming Stadium.

To keep Wilson-area food pantries stocked and some of our neediest neighbors fed, the Tobs are offering free admission to this weekend's doubleheader — they face the Fayetteville SwampDogs — with a donation of five canned or boxed nonperishable food items per person and 10 items for a family of four.

"Every can matters," Tobs general manager Michael Bell told Times reporter Olivia Neeley. "Even the smallest donation can help feed somebody for a day."

Begun as a gameday promotion, Home Run for Hunger has grown into a months-long food drive to benefit Wilson charities and the clients they serve. The expansion has helped food banks serve more families, and the Tobs' effort now ranks among the largest and most successful local campaigns.

Six thousand pounds of donated food is a tremendous accomplishment, and we thank the Home Run for Hunger collection sites and everyone who's pitched in so far. But we can't hoist the trophy just yet. There's one more inning to be played. 

Since donations are divided evenly among the 14 participating food pantries as they're collected, most of that three-ton total has already been distributed to Wilsonians who might otherwise go without. We need a bottom-of-the-ninth rally to fill the Tobs' team bus and restock the shelves before supplies dwindle.

Demand for food assistance increases during the summer while school-age children are on vacation. Students from low-income families are no longer being fed in daily breakfast and lunch lines, placing a strain on family budgets that are already stretched.

The need is real, and it's daunting, but Wilson can step up to the plate and come through for its own while enjoying a festive atmosphere and cheering on the home team.

"It's a free entertaining night out to help those less fortunate throughout Wilson County," Bell said. "We plan on collecting as much as we can. Every little bit matters."

If you love America's pastime but don't want to pay major-league prices for admission and concessions, clear out your cupboards and come out to the game on Sunday. The Tobs are offering $1 hot dogs, $1 popcorn and $2 snow cones as an incentive to help Home Run for Hunger round the bases. 

For sports film buffs, the venue itself ought to be worth the trip. "Bull Durham," the 1988 Kevin Costner release celebrating the rich tradition of local minor-league teams and the role they play in baseball's farm system, turns 30 years old this month. 

A memorable scene from the move was filmed here at Fleming Stadium —remember when Costner's Crash Davis turns on the ballpark sprinklers to soak the field, forcing a "rainout" of the next day's game? Durham may have the team featured in the flick, but that's Wilson mud caked on the players' clothes.

Even if you aren't a baseball fan and don't much care who wins Sunday's games, the Home Run for Hunger celebration provides an opportunity to make a difference in your community and take in the sights and sounds of the "greatest show on dirt." There will be live music, discount ballpark grub and plenty of entertainment to keep you occupied. 

Games start at 6 and 8:30 p.m. at the 300 Stadium St. field off Tarboro Street and Ward Boulevard. 

The Wilson Times is proud to sponsor Home Run for Hunger along with EmergeOrtho, Stephenson Millwork, Food Lion, Mt. Olive Pickle Co., S.T. Wooten Corp., State Farm insurance agent Jana Lake, First Media Radio and the Wilson Luncheon Lions Club. 

Equally deserving of credit are the Tobs organization and each and every person who's contributed to the food drive so far. Without the Wilson community's support, thousands of our neighbors would go to bed hungry. Our community is too caring to let that happen when there's something we can do to help.

Your five food items will make a difference. Let's fill every one of Fleming's 3,000 seats on Sunday and knock hunger out of the park this summer.