KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- When he heard other Major League players were joining with Cardinals pitcher Jason Motte to don "Strike Out Cancer" T-shirts in their own team colors to help fight cancer, Astros pitcher Brett Oberholtzer joined the cause.
The effort started small last spring with 300 shirts that Motte planned to pass out to friends and teammates. He hoped to sell a few, too, at his fall fundraiser to raise money for a cancer center in the Memphis, Tenn., area to which he and his wife had a personal connection.
Fans who saw Motte donning the shirt let him know they'd like one in their team's colors. That got him to thinking: If this plan worked for him and his charity, maybe it could benefit other players' charities in other markets as well. So Motte started to recruit late last season.
"It's always been something I've wanted to do, to give back in some way, so I felt like a good way to start was to give my time and effort to raise awareness and money for a cancer foundation," said Oberholtzer, who's father, Fred, had leukemia.
The website 108stitches.com went live on March 17, with 108 Stitches showcasing the "Strike Out Cancer" tees in each team's colors. Each is promoted by a different player who agreed to join Motte in a partnership that will benefit multiple charities. Each participating player has chosen a charity that will benefit from the T-shirts sales, and for each shirt sold, $5 will go to the Jason Motte Foundation and $5 to a charity of that player's choice. A full list of recipient charities will be listed on the 108 Stitches website soon, along with a photo of each player rep in his team-colored shirt.
"At the end of the day, it's about reaching people," Motte said. "Baseball is great and everything, but there are other really important things going on out there that affect a lot of people. Wearing these T-shirts shows people that they're not alone. They're not sitting there doing chemo by themselves where no one cares. People do care, whether it's friends, family or baseball players. There are people who this has touched and this has affected. This is something we're trying to do to get the word out there and try to raise money to help."
The charity Oberholtzer chose was an organization that researches leukemia.
"More and more players nowadays are giving back with all the money they're making," he said. "We did offseason work at the Ronald McDonald Houston in Houston, visiting people. It's not only beneficial for them to see us, but also for us to bring to light what other people are going through on a day-to-day basis."