'Aces' shows Harang's appreciation for military
Pitcher's ticket program serving San Diego after starting in Cincy
SAN DIEGO -- The idea behind Aaron Harang's charity ticket program -- called "Aaron's Aces" -- has roots that extend far beyond the launching of the initiative that Harang began four years ago with his wife Jennifer while he was with the Reds.
The roots of Harang's program -- which is designed to distribute tickets to military and their families -- started several years ago in Harang's native San Diego, during the days when the Padres pitcher played with and against the sons of military members.
"Growing up in San Diego, you are around so many military people and families. I saw firsthand what it was like not to have your mother or father as they were serving in the military," Harang said.
"You could tell it took a toll on those kids mentally. You really appreciate the sacrifice, everything they're going through to serve our country. [Aaron's Aces] shows our appreciation for what they have to go through."
This is why for every Sunday home game at PETCO Park, Harang hosts 30 guests from the Armed Services YMCA to a behind-the-scenes day at the ballpark.
The family members get a customized T-shirt, goodie bag, a private meet-and-greet session in the bullpen, tickets to the game and concession vouchers.
"It's a fun time and an opportunity to take their mind off not having a mother or father around," Harang said. "We have them come down to the field before the game, and we will meet with them in the dugout. It's a neat experience."
Harang has been involved in charitable endeavors going back to his time with the Reds from 2003-10.
Harang was involved in numerous community-service efforts during time in Cincinnati, including the "Miracle League Field" project, for which he donated more than $60,000. The complex, which provided a baseball field for children with disabilities, opened on his birthday, May 9, in 2009.
"You've got to take care of the people who take care of you," Harang said. "It's a good feeling to see smiles on people's faces when they get to do things they normally wouldn't get to do."
It was in Cincinnati where Harang started Aaron's Aces, which Reds right fielder Jay Bruce has maintained in Cincinnati.
"What our service men and women do for us, you've got to give back to them and take care of them," Harang said.
The program was a hit, and Harang -- who is in his first season with the Padres -- said he is hopeful to see it take off in his native San Diego, especially with so many strong ties to the military.
"I get letters from the groups and cards from the kids," Harang said. "I've gotten all kinds of medallions from the soldiers and flags that have been flown in Saudi Arabia and also Afghanistan. They're showing their appreciation with these gifts, and we're showing ours with Aaron's Aces."