PAWTUCKET — The heartfelt initiative of Tolman High baseball coach Theo Murray coupled with the open-arms approach of PawSox president Mike Tamburro has helped lay the groundwork for a special event scheduled for Saturday, April 20 at McCoy Stadium.
A high school baseball game will take place that day with first pitch set for 11:30 a.m. This non-league, seven-inning affair will produce a winner and a defeated party, but the outcome will be a footnote in a symphony composed in fellowship, compassion and healing.
Tolman will welcome Connecticut’s Newtown High School baseball team to McCoy. The invitation to the community that’s still reeling from the aftermath of the horrific school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary was extended from Murray to Newtown coach Matt Memoli a few weeks after the Dec. 14 incident.
Having two young children – an 11-year-old son and a daughter who’s nine – Murray said he was ill over the violence that shook Newtown. A coach who stresses the importance of having his players participate in “living experiences,” whether the requirements are reading at Pawtucket’s elementary schools or engaging in team-building activities, Murray wanted to help with Newtown’s healing process.
Not knowing Memoli in the slightest, Murray went on the high school’s Web site page for athletics to search for his e-mail address. Sitting in Tamburro’s McCoy Stadium office late last week along with Tolman athletic director John Scanlon, Murray described the electronic message he sent to Memoli: “I know everyone around the world is doing what they can do, sending money and whatever, but from a baseball coaches’ point of view, maybe we can get together.
“It was just a random e-mail expressing my condolences to the entire community and how we can perhaps bring some joy,” Murray added.
Murray didn’t have to wait long for Memoli’s reply.
“He ran it by the powers that be down there,” described the Tigers mentor. “He was pumped and excited.”
Traditionally, the PawSox allow the Tolman baseball program to play a handful of games inside McCoy whenever the venue’s primary tenant is on a road trip. When the Rhode Island high school baseball schedules were finalized and distributed to the schools last month, Scanlon informed Tamburro that Newtown would be on Tolman’s 2013 schedule.
“I want to give Theo and John all the credit; it’s just a tremendous idea. When John made me aware, I just said that this is something we’ve got to embrace,” Tamburro remarked. “If we can put a smile on these families’ faces, then lets try and our best to do that.”
Once a common date that was mutually workable for Newtown High and the PawSox was reached, the key players started drumming up fundraising ideas, although nothing definitive has been agreed upon. One idea that’s been talked about is to have the Newtown club return to McCoy Stadium for a PawSox game as guests of the organization and also receive the proceeds raised from the April 20 game as part of an on-field pregame ceremony – perhaps to be used toward a memorial that remembers the victims.
“We want to encourage the community to come out and support this event,” was the message Tamburro wished to convey.
Added Scanlon, “We’ll go through the (Pawtucket superintendent Deborah Cylke’s) office to develop a letter for distribution that goes out to all the schools, inviting students, parents and faculty. We’ll spread the word through the entire Pawtucket school system.”
Murray passed along the wishes of a gracious Memoli, who in an email to him stated, “To do this is a great gesture by you guys. You didn’t have to do this, but it means a ton. It’ll be a great experience for the kids.”
The baseball team at St. Raphael team will have a decidedly different look this spring after seniors Andrew Veiga and Nick Karalekas have opted to finish high school elsewhere. Veiga enrolled at Lincoln High while Karalekas has taken his talents to East Providence High.
A standout pitcher, Veiga has committed to Division I University of Albany. A first-team, all-division selection as a junior at SRA, Karalekas signed with Division II Merrimack College last fall.