GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- New A's infielder Nick Punto, inspired by a charitable cause near his home in Orange County, is serving as something of an unofficial team ambassador for the Strike Out Cancer initiative launched by Cardinals reliever and former teammate Jason Motte.
Motte, with help from the Major League Baseball Players Association, has recruited a member from each club to distribute T-shirts emblazoned with a backward "K" above the word "cancer." Punto and several other A's players have been wearing the shirts, theirs customized in green and gold.
The public can obtain shirts on the 108 Stitches website (www.108stitches.com), though only red T-shirts are currently available, with other colors hitting the market within the next couple of weeks. From each A's shirt sold, $5 will be donated to the Jason Motte Foundation and another $5 goes to a charity of Punto's choice.
The veteran infielder opted to donate funds to NEGU -- an organization that stands for "Never Ever Give Up!" inspired by Jessica Rees, who passed away at age 12 in 2012 following a 10-month battle with two brain tumors.
"She just had this unbelievable attitude for all the children that were in the hospital who were sick," said Punto. "She said, 'Dad, do you care if I take some of my things and give them to some of the other kids at the hospital who are sick?'"
Such gifts became known as JoyJars. Through the foundation, they are now distributed to hundreds of young patients and include new toys and activities.
Rees' father is the pastor at the church Punto attends with his family in Southern California.
"She was a really big influence in Orange County," he said, "and it was easy to get attached to their efforts after just one hospital visit. Me and my wife got to know her father really well, and he was such an inspiration. Losing a child is something no parent ever should have to go through."