Leo Spielberger’s family lost everything in the Marshall Fire at the end of December.
The wind-driven fire tore through the city of Superior, becoming the most devastating in state history in a matter of hours. One of the losses was the Spielberger’s new home, where they had just moved six months earlier. 11-year-old Leo lost all of his baseball gear just weeks before he was due to start training at the RoughRiders Sports Club, located in the Sport Stable facility in Superior.
Leo arrived at the team’s first practice—which was held at a bowling alley instead of Sport Stable’s indoor batting cages, as the facility was closed to clear the smoke damage from the fire—dejected and “looking very sad,” Greg Ball, a coach of the squad, said.
But largely because of Ball’s outreach to the Glenwood Springs community, Leo left the team meeting with a big smile and some swag – a new bat that was exactly the model he had before, donated by representatives on Justbats.com, a new glove from Mizuno. after a nationwide search of the company, batting gloves and a pair of gift cards worth a total of $2,000.
“It’s really overwhelming,” said Leo’s father, Scott Spielberger. “It’s an incredible, generous act. … We have an outpouring of support from literally not just across the country from people we know and don’t know and from outside the US and friends and family. It gives you a lot of hope under the circumstances .”
Ball and RoughRiders head coach Matt Henderson graduated from Glenwood Springs High School in 1987 and maintained their friendships in the region.
As the Marshall Fire passed and Ball made a plea through his Facebook page for help to Leo and the Spielbergers, the people of Glenwood Springs recalled their own tragedies, including the Coal Seam Fire of 2002.
West Glenwood Springs resident Shannon Derby and her family lost everything in that fire, including her sons’ baseball gear. A family friend replaced it all. One of the kids, Cody Derby, used that equipment to continue playing baseball and turn it into a professional track and field coach career.
Cody’s mother said none of this would have been possible without the generosity of others and didn’t hesitate to pass it on with Ball’s plea.
“When I saw Greg’s message, I thought, ‘Oh, absolutely,'” said Derby. “There was a boy whose spirit needed to be lifted, so there was no hesitation. It’s just that way in Glenwood. That’s how we’re all here.”
Derby was not alone in her contributions. Of the thousands of dollars raised, Ball said nearly 70% came from the Glenwood Springs community, whether current residents or people who have moved.
When Ball received a deluge of Venmo alerts and associated messages, two stood out: Derbies and that of a graduating classmate, whom he didn’t name, but for whom “the money is extremely tight,” Ball said.
“She sent $10 and told me, ‘I’m a mom, make sure he gets a mouthpiece,'” Ball said. “I don’t cry often, but these two comments literally touched every piece of my heart I have.”
The overall generosity touched Leo too, who immediately donned his new glove and took his new bat to the parking lot for some practice swings.
“It was a big win,” said Scott Spielberger.