UNION HILL, Minn. (FOX 9) - On a weekend of baseball across Minnesota, there are games with fun and games with meaning. The Minnesota Twins command a lot of attention and sell a lot of tickets. But miles away at the Union Hill ballpark, some of the best sluggers from Minnesota town ball teams stepped up to the plate for a home run derby where the top prize is knowing they helped a little girl with a broken heart.
"Oh, Adeline. She’s a little spitfire," said her mother, Jessi Lambrecht.
All of three years old, Adeline has been through more surgeries than most people have in a lifetime. She suffers from a condition known as hyperplastic right heart syndrome or HRHS. It’s a rare condition where the right heart chamber never fully developed.
"The goal is eventually to not even use the right side of her heart," explained Jessi. "The blood will come down and go straight to her lungs to oxygenate and then the left side of her heart will pump her blood to her body."
But rerouting that blood flow will require more surgeries at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. And that’s where Ted Nytes steps in.
"I do it because I truly want to help people," said Nytes.
Nytes is a custom cabinetmaker by trade. He’s a long-time town ball player himself and has a side business making customized baseball bats for players across Minnesota and the Midwest. His company is called Home Town Bats. Six years ago, he organized his first home run derby as a way of helping out families who need help paying for medical conditions. The annual derby has been going strong ever since.
"I think there’s a lot of people that want to help people too and maybe they don’t have the right avenue to do it," said Nytes. "And this give them that avenue to pour whatever they want to, maybe they’re making donations, or making buns, or making the burger for this event, not just a money donation, they feel good about helping somebody."
Nytes recruits friends and players from across the corn and bean fields of southern Minnesota. Eric Steinhoff has won the derby twice.
"I mean even if you don’t hit a home run, you hit a home run with the derby itself," said Steinhoff. Each player raises a minimum of a thousand dollars to compete. Many of them raise more.
"It’s your own community, you’re taking care of it," said Matt Perkinson of the Veseli Warriors baseball team. "One day it might be me so you do what you can when you can do it."
This time around, the fundraising is all for a little girl too young to comprehend why she’s getting all the attention.
"I cannot believe the generosity of people," said Adeline’s mother, Jessi. It’s really amazing. We’re so blessed for that."
It’s said baseball is a game of hits, runs, and errors. But in Union Hill, it’s about hits runs, and dollars.
"That’s what we’re doing here, We’re just helping," said Nytes.