Missouri baseball team holds exhibition for Joplin relief

Tuesday, October 4, 2011 | 7:23 p.m. CDT

Brandon Spiegel sent the tweet on the morning of May 26.

“I’m finding more stuff!!!”

Along with those words, he posted a picture of a dirty and tattered souvenir Missouri baseball jersey.

Spiegel is a former MU student and KOMU 8 reporter now living in Joplin and reporting for a TV station there. Four days before his tweet, his apartment, and most of his town, were destroyed by a tornado.

He found his jersey about 100 yards away from his home.

A member of the Missouri baseball team's coaching staff saw Spiegel’s tweet. The team got ahold of the jersey and kept it in its dugout through the rest of the season. It became a fixture during the Tigers' postseason push.

The Tigers' association with Joplin will continue this weekend when the team plays host to the Iowa Hawkeyes for two exhibition games at Taylor Stadium to raise money for the Joplin Little League.

On May 21, the Tigers finished their regular season in Nebraska. The next day, the tornado hit.

That night, Spiegel went in search of the two-story apartment building he lived in.

“It was dark, but I could tell that there was no second floor," he said. "And when I went back in the morning, I could see that there was nothing left of the second story … and everything from the first story was either gone or scattered all over the place.”

KOMU sports reporter Eric Blumberg retweeted Spiegel’s picture, and that’s when the team saw it.

Believing the jersey was a motivational symbol, the team sought out the quickest way to obtain it. Mark Turner, catcher Ben Turner’s father, happened to be driving from St. Louis to join the team in Oklahoma City, where they were preparing for the Big 12 Conference Tournament, and met Spiegel in Joplin to pick up the jersey.

From May 25 to 29, as Missouri advanced through the Big 12 tournament, the tattered and dirty jersey hung in the dugout.

“I think it encouraged the team to just go out and play their hardest, and reminded them that they were playing for an entire state, not just Mizzou,” Spiegel said.

The Tigers played five games in the tournament and won three, falling in a back-and-forth extra-inning title game against Texas A&M. However, the Tigers were the first No. 8 seed to make it to the Big 12 championship game.

“I think my jersey became more famous than I did. It was just in the background every time they showed the dugout. It was really cool to have it there,” Spiegel said.

The first fundraiser game is at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The second is set for 1 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $5 with all proceeds going to the Joplin Little League. A raffle and auction are also planned.

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