Call it a homerun for youth baseball players, fans and local charities that is now ready to be hit! The Westfield Knights of Columbus will host the 10th annual Memorial Day Baseball Tournament for 11U and 12U Travel Baseball Teams at Westfield's this Memorial Day Weekend.
The weekend-long event includes games played on the Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, May 25-28 per the attached schedule. A special opening ceremony/ memorial service will take place at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 26. All are welcomed to attend.
Westfield resident and organizer Jamie Marner said Councilwoman JoAnn Neylan stood in for Mayor Andy Skibitsty to open the tournament last year, during which Cranford resident Dennis McCaffery was awarded the 1st Youth Service Award for all of his great work within the Cranford School District.
"JoAnn was so impressed with the event, she said even if the mayor is around this year, she's still going to attend if she can make it," Marner said. "We have a Marine bugler, Mark Paradis, who plays 'The Star Spangled Banner' and 'Taps' before Saturday's First Pitch and there's not a dry eye in the place."
The tournament is held in honor of U.S. troops who serve our country past, present and future and also in memory of the late Pittsburgh Pirate Roberto Clemente, who died in an airplane crash while on a relief mission to bring supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims on Dec. 31, 1972.
This year marks the 40th Anniversary of "The Great One's" passing and the story of Clemente both as a superstar player and eternal humanitarian symbol that Marner thinks and feels all youth need to understand. It is his generosity of spirit as well as what he endured as the Latino Community's "Jackie Robinson" that Marner, originally from Pittsburgh, wants players to appreciate about Clemente and take away from the event.
"He was unbelievably service-oriented and always donated his time in a quiet way," Marner said. "We live in such a 'me-first' society and it is important to get kids to realize there are people who sacrifice much for others as exemplified by great athletes like Clemente as well as outstanding teachers, coaches and administrators like McCaffery whom they come across unknowingly each day..."
To further tell the story of Clemente, Julio Pabon is scheduled to appear at the event. Mr Pabon is a leader in Latino Sports and their associated sportswriters. He hails from the Bronx and is instrumental in the campaign to "Retire 21" - Roberto's jersey number. Also involved is The Clemente Museum which has assisted in providing a 21 hat to each team's manager, playoff game balls to the winning teams, etc. The Clemente Museum is dedicated to keeping the spirit and story of Clemente alive in Pittsburgh and within Major League Baseball.
Speaking of sacrifice, Marner said it truly takes a village to pull off the event. In addition to the Knights' contribution, umpires donate their time to call the games. Last year, a photographer took pictures throughout the weekend and posted them on a website where they could be purchased with all proceeds donated to the tournament's chosen charities.
Again this year local restaurants, including Milan Pizza of Garwood, the Almighty of Westfield will all be donating a percentage of meals back to the charities if the tournament is mentioned from Friday May 25th through next Sunday June 3, 2012 by patrons.
Each eatery has different arrangements with Marner in support of the event during that time period. However, all one needs to do is print out the attached cover letter for the event and give it to the restaurant and they can be sure that a portion of their bill will be directed to the tournament's charities - so go out this weekend and next week, eat some great local food and giveback to the the charities while you do it!
In addition, Westfield Baseball and many other businesses / organizations like Investors Bank, Sports Stitch Apparel, Falcon Printing, , Snapple, Fuscon, Murph Construction, Builders & Housewrights,, Lunami, , , , , , , , , , Hellenic Theraphy Center, The Ballpark, East Coast Conditioning, , , , the New Jersey Devils, Union Catholic, Oratory Prephave been generous in their support this year and years past, Marner said.
Finally, many individuals have contributed their valuable time, money and resources to and for the charities. Would you like to join them? If so, please simply send a note to the tournament's e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and let Marner know how you would like to get involved.
Also, feel free to just show up to help out and / or donate throughout the weekend at Gumpert Fields in Westfield, NJ located on South Chestnut Ave just off of North Ave. Any and all support will be appreciated. "Our mottoes are 'many hands make light work' and 'it is better to serve others than to receive,'" Marner said.
Again, all proceeds from the event benefit local charities including including: The Paul L. Jackson Fund, Life's Not Fair, Westfield Community Center, Liam's Room, Sister Pat's Camp, Theta Phi Alpha Foundation, Local Parishes & Clemente Charities!
Marner said representatives from each charity will be offered time when they have the opportunity to talk about their organization's mission.
In the past 11U and 12U town travel teams have come to compete from all over Essex, Morris, Somerset, and Union Counties. This year will be no different with teams coming from Morristown, Florham Park, Madison, Millburn, Springfield, South Plainfield, Clark, Colonia, Cranford and Westfield.
"We hope to make it bigger and better than ever this year," Marner said. "So please come and let's help today's youth play ball in service of others in need!"