IDA, MICHIGAN -- As Bluffton baseball player Tim Berta remains in an Atlanta hospital in critical condition, nearly the entire village if Ida turned out Saturday night to support him and his family. They bought spaghetti dinners, raffle tickets and "Team Bluffton" bracelets, all to raise money to offset the mounting medical costs.
Berta was injured in the March 2nd bus crash that killed five of his teammates, the bus driver and the bus driver's wife. The bus carrying the team to Sarasota, Florida, crashed in the pre-dawn hours in Atlanta. Police spokesman Joe Cobb says the driver apparently mistook the exit lane for part of the carpool lane and continued over the side of the overpass. The bus tumbled over a fence and guard rail, and landed on its left side.
The team was scheduled to play a double-header with Eastern Mennonite University before heading to Ft. Myers to participate in the Gene Cusic Classic.
On Saturday, hundreds of folks lined up to show their support for the Berta family, including many of his injured teammates. Sophomore catcher Curtis Schroeder drove all the way from Bluffton. "To support Tim because he was part of our team and he was loved by everyone on the team," said Schroeder. "He's just a great guy and had to do it."
Ida resident Angie Gerweck knows how overwhelming medical bills can be. The community threw her a benefit two years ago when she was sick with cancer. Now that the Berta family needs help, she's giving back the same kind of support. "The mom and dad are staying down there, unfortunately, for an indefinite amount of time right now, away from their jobs, their income, having two girls back home to take care of and bills to pay," said Gerweck.
Shelby McCain is friends with the youngest daughter, Tonya Berta, and she's donated her time on a Saturday help send an important message to the Berta family. "We're thinking about them and praying about them, and this whole thing says all that," said McCain.
And Tim's younger sister was thankful for it all. "It's really overwhelming. 'Thank you' seriously is not enough anymore," said Tonya.
The Bluffton University web page says the Bluffton Beavers play their homes games at Sears Field in Bluffton. Bluffton's team finished 17-21 in 2006, with a record of 10-11 in the Heartland Conference, tying them for second place in their NCAA Division 3 conference.
The school was founded in 1899, and the team played its first game in 1905. Its all-time record is 622-807-24.