By Eric Mergens

Juan Acevedo, Cy Barger, Andy Cannizaro…Derek Jeter, Mickey Mantle, and finally, at last, Babe Ruth.

Photo courtesy Richard Albero

Photo courtesy Richard Albero

That’s how Richard Albero is counting the miles from home plate at George M. Steinbrenner Field (spring training home of the New York Yankees) in Tampa to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Each of the 1,200 miles that he’ll walk this spring will be accompanied by the ghosts of Yankee greats – because each one gets their own mile. The 1,200 finest to play in pinstripes.

“Of course it’s nice to be a Yankees fan,” Richard said from somewhere in the middle of the Florida swamp. “They’re always winning and they’ve always got great stars.”

There’s no question that baseball would be the medium for a walk like this.  It may be losing ground to other sports in terms of popularity in America, but there is nothing like its history to inspire the future.

“My father always felt that if you’re on a sports field, you’re not going to get in trouble.  Baseball was my real love,” Richard explained of his love for the game. “Back in those days, that’s all we did. We’d get up at 7 in the morning, head out to the field, come back for supper with our glove under the table, and then go back out to play.”

Despite one Yankees executive calling Richard’s walk “the most unique concept he’d ever seen,” the love of the game and the New York Yankees isn’t Richard’s only motivating factor on this walk up the east coast.  Those factors are deeply held convictions that began with a bucket list.

When Richard’s nephew, Gary, was 14 years old, they made a promise to each other standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon. One day they would hike the canyon rim to rim. Tragically, Gary was killed in the 9/11 attacks before he and Richard could achieve this goal. To honor Gary’s memory, Richard created (and is still creating) a bucket list of ways to reflect the charitable work that Gary had given himself to during his life. The first item was of course conquering the Grand Canyon. This walk is part two of that list and has the backing of the Wounded Warrior Project.

Richard’s goal is to raise $100,000 during the course of his walk, the vast majority coming from independent donors.

“Fortunately I was able to partner with the Wounded Warrior Project. Being ex-military, that was perfect for me as well,” Richard said as he explained how he couldn’t initially find a sponsor for his walk. “I’d honestly have given the money I’d collected to the first needy person I saw in Times Square if I would have had to.”

Expect Richard to stroll into Yankee Stadium sometime in May.  The follow-up story will be posted to Purpose2Play then!

You can track Richard’s progress and make a donation at his website and get updates by following him on Facebook and Twitter.