A Star Alum Wished To Give Back. Where His Donation Will Be Seen This Baseball Season

February 15, 2024 By Andrew Ramspacher, fpa5up@virginia.edu Andrew Ramspacher, fpa5up@virginia.edu

Coming off a 2023 season in which he set the program record for hits and runs scored, University of Virginia’s Griff O’Ferrall wasn’t about to get complacent. 

The Cavaliers’ standout shortstop was determined to give his opponents a different look in 2024. 

“I really wanted orange cleats,” he said. 

Rocking predominantly white footwear on the diamond as a sophomore, O’Ferrall turned in an All-America campaign while helping the Cavaliers to the College World Series. His junior season begins Friday and, thanks to a recent donation from a former Wahoo standout, one of his goals has already been accomplished.

Related Story

‘Inside UVA’ A Podcast Hosted by Jim Ryan
‘Inside UVA’ A Podcast Hosted by Jim Ryan

O’Ferrall, along with his teammates, will be wearing orange cleats – with navy and white accents – for the 14th-ranked Cavaliers’ opening game against Hofstra University. First pitch from Disharoon Park is 3 p.m. Friday.

The customized Nike Alpha Huarache shoes were gifted to the Cavaliers from Andrew Abbott, a Cincinnati Reds pitcher who starred for the Hoos from 2018-21 and ranks second in program history with 327 career strikeouts.

Abbott personally distributed the footwear – 53 pairs in total; cleats for every player and “turf shoes” for coaches and staff members – to his alma mater in late January.

The surprise delivery carried special meaning.

Abbott, who debuted for the Reds last June and made Baseball America’s All-Rookie Team in October, has long wanted to give back to the program that recruited him out of Halifax County, helped turn him into an All-American and eventually a second-round pick in the MLB Draft.

Even before the 2023 season, Abbott said, he was exploring gift possibilities. He settled on customized shoes after meeting Anthony Lucia of Lucia Footwear Company through MLB connections. Starting in October, Abbott and Lucia worked together on a design that Lucia would then hand-paint on the shoes.

“I tried to find a good mix of something they could wear with all the uniforms, but it also represented who they’re playing for, which is UVA,” Abbott said. “That had to be a vital part of it.”

Andrew Abbott pitching at UVA, left, Andrew Abbott pitching for the Cincinnati Reds, right

Just two years after being drafted out of UVA, Abbott made his Major League Baseball debut with the Cincinnati Reds in June. (Photos by UVA Athletics and the Cincinnati Reds)

The end result, after an estimated 225 hours of painstaking painting, was revealed during a Jan. 27 team meeting at Disharoon Park. Abbott flew in from Cincinnati that day to be there. He told the team the meaning behind the shoes and delivered them a tongue-in-cheek warning against any thoughts of resale.

“If they end up on eBay, I know where to find you,” he said he told the current Cavaliers. “There’s only 53 of these, guys, so if they end up on eBay, it’s one of y’all.”

Early indications are Abbott has nothing to fret. The Hoos wore them for their official team photo shortly after the delivery, and, according to head coach Brian O’Connor, they’ve been so careful to keep them clean for the season they’ve chosen not to practice in them.

“They know what Andrew’s accomplished,” O’Connor said, “and they know how he feels about his experience here. And when you have a guy who they look up to, who’s at the highest level of baseball, who wore this uniform ... when he walks in the room and does something special for them, it makes a difference.

“They were jacked to get them. And they’re excited to wear them this season.”

Special touches to the cleats, which are not for public sale, include a UVA logo on the heel and faded versions of the emblem sprinkled throughout the upper portion of the shoes. Abbott’s logo – a customized double A – is also featured.

In an Instagram post, Lucia called Abbott’s project “one of the most generous forms of gratitude and love for a former college team that we’ve ever seen.”

Count O’Ferrall among the many Wahoos with tremendous appreciation for the gesture.

“Before we opened the box, I was praying they were orange,” he said. “So, I was pretty excited to see them.

“But also, just knowing what Andrew is about and knowing he came through this program, it’s so cool that he was willing to give back like this. It makes it special.”

Media Contact

Andrew Ramspacher

University News Associate University Communications