Wildfire claims little girl’s prized baseball card collection, first responders step in

A generous offer of support from the South Bay Tuesday for some of California's younger wildfire victims.

It all started with a 9-year-old Fresno County girl who loves baseball and ends with an unexpected donation from a stranger in San Jose.

9-year-old Reese Osterberg loves baseball and the San Francisco Giants.

One of her favorite things to do, besides playing ball, is to line up her baseball cards in front of the TV while watching the professional athletes play.

But in September, tragedy struck Osterberg's family when the Creek Fire destroyed their home in the Fresno County community of Pine Ridge near Shaver Lake.

"My mom got a call and she started crying and that made me know," said Osterberg.

While evacuating from their home, Osterberg's mom grabbed photos.

Reese grabbed her baseball glove, but wasn't able to save her 200 baseball cards.

"The hardest thing about it was the cards," reflected Osterberg. "They meant a lot. Some of them were prized possessions."

Firefighters heard about Reese and two teammates on her baseball team who also lost their homes in the fire, so the first responders joined with law enforcement to start a "Step Up To The Plate" campaign online to collect baseball cards for the young fire victims.

150 miles away in San Jose, 62-year-old Kevin Ashford heard Reese's story on the radio.

"And thought to myself, you know I got all these baseball cards that are out in the garage and you know I would really like to get those cards to her and put a smile on her face," said Ashford.

So he decided to donate the 25,000 baseball cards he's collected over the past 20 years to a complete stranger, to help Reese and her friends, including one card of Reese's favorite player, Buster Posey.

"My intention is just to make a little girl happy," said Ashford.

And he already did.

Tuesday, Bay Area firefighters and CHP officers helped load the thousands of baseball cards into a CHP vehicle which will help deliver them to Reese Wednesday.

When the fourth grader heard about the donation from a stranger in San Jose, she expressed deep gratitude.

"My brain just exploded," said Osterberg. "The message I want to give to him is thank you so, so much. It means a lot to us!"

And it may mean even more to Reese's mom who teared up when she tried to verbalize her thanks.

"That was something we had at home and that was something she did with her sister and her dog and they would sit and go through them and it's kind of a calming thing," said mother Amy Osterberg.

Amy Osterberg is a teacher at Pine Ridge Elementary School and says about 38 of the school's 100 students lost a home in the Creek Fire.

Her family plans to share the baseball card donation with others and says the act of kindness means so much during what has been a scary and uncertain time.