ED FOLEY is itching to throw the first pitch at a Phillies home game. So, he phoned the Phils to ask how he might scratch that itch.

No one returned his calls, which didn't surprise the 47-year-old consultant and father of three from Jenkintown.

"I'm a nobody," he says, cheerfully. "I'm on the D list. I have no connections."

He needed a way to ingratiate himself with the team, so they'd bless him with a prized toss.

The scheme he came up with has been such a hoot, it makes me think that the Phils oughta blow off their fans more often.

Ed knew that the Phillies' pet charity is the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association.

"I figured if I sucked up to the Phillies by raising a ton of money for ALS"- the dread neurodegenerative disease that felled baseball legend Lou Gehrig - "the Phillies would let me throw out a ball."

So, Ed launched "The ALS TradeUp!" (www.alstradeup.com). It's based on the "one red paperclip" stunt made famous by a blogger who traded a red paperclip for something bigger, which he traded for something better, and so on, until he got himself a house.

Ed's initial item would be a "crappy" Charlie Manuel baseball card, which he'd trade for items of increasing value until July 4th, the 70th anniversary of Gehrig's wrenching farewell speech at Yankee Stadium.

He'd auction the final item - hopefully, something of hefty worth - on eBay and donate the proceeds to ALS.

"And then the Phillies would reward me by giving me a first pitch," says Ed.

So here's a question: Is it crass to raise money for an altruistic cause for un-altruistic reason?

"Honestly, anyone who wants to raise money for us, we're thrilled," says Jenny Ruth, the local ALS association's communications manager, whom I called about Ed's project.

"God bless him."

So, the Manuel card traded for a $25 gift certificate provided by Jenkintown merchants.

Laura Ferrell, owner of a home- and office-cleaning company, snatched the certificate in trade for her services - a $90 value!

Upper Darby crooner Gerry Perna grabbed the cleaning in exchange for his Elvis act.

Some of Ed's friends used Gerry's services for a fundraiser at an Irish club in Jenkintown. Afterwards, attendees dubbed his act "the best performance by an Italian Elvis impersonator singing Burt Bachrach songs ever staged at MacSwiney's!"

Proceeds from the show paid for a framed, autographed photo of Phillie star Chase Utley.

Which got traded for the project's current swap item: two tickets to see Jimmy Buffett in concert this June.

"This has been a blast," says Ed. "Everyone's excited for me. Even if the Phillies don't give me the ball, this has been a great experience for a good cause."

He pauses.

"But I expect to get a call."

Turns out, you needn't be an A-lister to throw a "ceremonial pitch" - the Phillies' term for what most of us refer to as "the first pitch."

The honor is used as a perk for group attendees - like churches and charities - that sell big blocks of game tickets.

"The pitch is part of the sponsorship package," says Chris Long, the team's director of entertainment (who didn't know of Ed's mission).

Ed needn't sell 500 tickets to earn a pitch, though.

Instead, he can take his chances on June 22 at the Phillies Festival, an annual fundraiser at the ballpark for - yes - the ALS Association.

The massive event includes a silent auction. Up for bid will be - listen up, Ed - a ceremonial pitch at a predetermined game, along with four tickets.

"Last year, the bid maxed out at $1,300," says Michele DeVicaris, coordinator of Phillies events. This year, "we hope Ed will bid, and we hope he wins."

When a guy works as hard as Ed has to get a team to call him back, I'd say he deserves it. *

E-mail polaner@phillynews.com or call 215-854-2217. For recent columns: