The Garfoose gives back

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- In the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan last Friday, many MLB teams have instituted initiatives to raise funds for relief. The Yankees pledged $100,000. The Red Sox Foundation donated $50,000. At Monday night's Yankees-Red Sox game at City of Palms Park in Ft. Myers, Fla., the four Japanese Red Sox pitchers personally collected donations for the Red Cross and thanked fans as they entered the ballpark. Another American League East journeyman, Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Dirk Hayhurst, is spearheading a relief effort for Japan.

Hayhurst, aka "The Garfoose," is a New York Times best-selling author of "The Bullpen Gospels" with over 7,000 followers on Twitter. He's harnessing his popularity and devoted Twitter following to raise money for Japanese earthquake and tsunami relief with the help of Mercy Corps.

"I don't understand [my popularity] and it might not make sense," Hayhurst said in Tampa Bay's clubhouse Tuesday afternoon shortly before being assigned to the Rays' minor league camp. "But I can't change the reality of it, so I might as well abuse it for good."

Mercy Corps is taking donations to help survivors of the disaster through its longstanding partner, Peace Winds Japan. Hayhurst, who has written on his blog about his desire to one day play in the Japanese Nippon Professional Baseball League (Japan's major league baseball), launched his Mercy Corps page Saturday. To entice his fans and followers to donate to the cause, Hayhurst has offered a personal conversation via Skype for donations over $50 as a thank you. Fans can talk with him about whatever they want. Hayhurst said that a $1,000 donation came in Sunday, but the generous donor did not want a phone call.

This isn't the first time "The Garfoose" has leveraged his popularity for good. Hayhurst reached out to the so-called "Garfooslings" when he organized similar relief efforts for the devastating earthquakes in Pakistan and Haiti. As a result of an increase in his popularity in the past year, Hayhurst has already raised over $2,000, surpassing the amounts pledged in previous campaigns.

"I only feel bad that I'm not more important," Hayhurst said self-deprecatingly, "so I can do more."

To read Hayhurst's personal message and to donate, go to http://www.mercycorps.org/fundraising/thegarfoose1.

Around the Web