Son auctioning off dad’s signed baseball collection to help his old Pony league

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than 100 baseballs, signed by players like Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Nolan Ryan, are up for auction this week.

The most prominent names are up for auction online through Saturday. The rest will be auctioned off live at the Balcones community day happening at the fields Saturday.

Robert Maccabe donated his dad’s life-long collection to support Balcones Youth Sports, a community league in northwest Austin that’s been teaching baseball to kids for decades. Maccabe was one of those kids.

“I loved it out here,” Maccabe told KXAN. His dad, Don, coached him from tee-ball through his teenage years until he aged into high school ball.

Those were better days for the organization, which had more teams and games nearly every night. If he wasn’t playing, Maccabe said, he’d show up just to be there while his dad ran the scoreboard or taught the fundamentals. “I lived out here.”

When an injury ended Maccabe’s baseball hopes as a sophomore, he came back to Balcones fields to coach younger kids; he coached his own son there for a few years.

“Whether or not I wanted Dad to help, he was standing behind home plate on the fence, you know,” Maccabe laughed, “like the baseball dads do, in our stance and coaching him from back there.”

Don Maccabe died unexpectedly last July. Bile duct cancer came on quick, disorienting the father and husband, and before his family had the chance to adjust to the new symptoms, he was gone.

“I couldn’t sit down with him and say, ‘What would you like us to do with the balls? What would you like us to do with your cards?'” Connie Maccabe, Don’s wife, said. “I just couldn’t do that because it had already gone so far that he really was too confused to do that.”

The collection of autographed baseballs took up more and more space in their house over the years, and left more and more space free in their bank account. “I don’t even want to think,” Connie Maccabe said. “I mean, thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars.”

“But it meant a lot to him.”

The couple took baseball vacations together; on a visit to Florida with the family one year, Connie recounted, they spent two days at Disney World and the rest of the week at various baseball training camps. Connie and Don both worked for the Round Rock Express when they got older.

The decision to donate the balls was a difficult one, Robert Maccabe said, but a necessary one. He’s selling his house to move in with and help out his mom, and they simply don’t have the space for more than 100 baseballs in display cases.

And while they never had a chance to ask what he would have wanted, the Maccabes are sure this is the right place for them.

“Dad would be so proud to see them going to this use,” Robert said. “Balcones is in our blood, and we want to see it thrive.

Two Balcones Pony league teams are headed to Houston next week to compete in a tournament that could qualify them for the league World Series. Travel and lodging costs for the teams are expected to climb above $10,000, a substantial sum for a community team that, unlike elite leagues, doesn’t require parents to shell out thousands just to play ball.

Robert also hopes some of the money from the auction goes to sprucing up the Balcones Youth Sports fields. Not much has changed since he played there, and the facilities could use work.

He wants to make sure future generations get the same opportunity to develop a lifelong love for the game that his dad passed on to him.

“When I think about where it’s going, it makes me smile and feel good,” Robert Maccabe said. “And I know Dad would be really happy with where they’re going.”

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