They’re purportedly a secret society alleged to have a shadowy hand in the world’s most important issues and decisions.
They’re also a fourth-grade baseball team from Illinois.
They are … The Illuminati, and they just turned a double play by leveraging 15 minutes of viral fame into a wholesome fundraiser.
Better yet, this is all because the people demanded it. And you know The Illuminati couldn’t let the people down.
When the members of an under-10 travel baseball team in Illinois were allowed to choose their own name earlier this spring, the players’ parents didn’t give it much thought. Until the team landed on its name: The Illuminati.
Kevin Guilfoile, whose son plays for the team, was tickled by the kids’ choice. So Guilfoile did what people often do in 2017 when they encounter something whimsical and/or delightful — he got online to show off the team’s uniforms, which include triangle-themed patches with the words “Trust No One.”
Guilfoile has a few thousand Twitter followers. But within hours — thanks largely to internet users’ (mostly) tongue-in-cheek obsession with secret Illuminati machinations — his tweet showing son Vaughn modeling the new unis was a bonafide viral sensation.
Tens of thousands of retweets and more than 100,000 favorites were surprising enough. So were write-ups by BuzzFeed and SB Nation, among others, as well as local news interviews with the team’s young players.
“They were really excited,” Guilfoile says of the kids.
But his post also kept on receiving the same response.
“I started getting hundreds of replies from people saying, ‘If you made these in adult sizes, I’d buy one in a heartbeat,'” Guilfoile says.
The Guilfoile family may not be actual Illuminati, but baseball stories do run in their blood. Kevin’s father — Vaughn’s grandfather — was an executive in public relations for the New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates before going on to work as vice president for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Kevin is a successful novelist whose past career was in baseball media relations
After so many adults asked about Illuminati merchandise, Kevin Guilfoile approached the team’s coaches about taking advantage of the viral story. They set up a page on the crowdfunding site GoFundMe, where fans can “donate” certain amounts for T-shirts, caps, hoodies and jerseys.
Where the team name comes from, meanwhile, might not be quite as mysterious as it appears. Many of the fourth-grade ballplayers are also fans of the animated Disney television series Gravity Falls, which frequently features Illuminati imagery.
“I think that’s probably where most of their awareness of the [actual] Illuminati comes from,” Guilfoile says.
While the fourth-grade Illuminati team’s moment of viral fame may have been brief, it will help the players a year from now.
Proceeds from the fundraiser will cover equipment and operations costs for the travel team next season, and extra money will go toward the local Little League whose facilities the Illuminati use. So far the campaign has raised about $4,800; next year’s team budget hasn’t been set.
As for those who’ve already placed orders for Illuminati gear, the first batch of merchandise is currently being processed for shipment, according to Guilfoile. And it’s not too late to get your own merch.
“As long as there’s interest,” he says, “we’ll keep turning orders around.”
BY SAM LAIRD