PAWTUCKET — The Tolman-Newtown high school baseball game that’s scheduled for Saturday morning (11:30 start) at McCoy Stadium should be embraced as a celebration of the human spirit.
The non-league contest isn’t intended to reopen still-fresh wounds or provide a semblance of closure to the cruel sequence of events that shattered the lives of those affected by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. This is an event that is woven in companionship while lending support, with the game of baseball serving as the common thread that brings everyone to the same table.
While the individuals directly responsible for making this special game a reality have received strong feedback ever since Tolman-Newtown was first publicized 2½ months ago, the message conveyed to the masses is still the same – come out and support this worthy cause. Tickets cost just $5, with all funds going directly to the Sandy Hook School Workers Assistance Fund.
“We invite the community to come out and really get behind this game,” expressed Pawtucket Red Sox president Mike Tamburro. “I think everyone in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings wondered what they could do in some small way to lend assistance. This is an opportunity for us to come together and show our support for Newtown.”
From one head baseball coach to another, Tolman’s Theo Murray passed along that Newtown’s Matt Memoli is chomping at the bit to take his team on a special sojourn to McCoy. The Nighthawks are planning to arrive at Ben Mondor Way Saturday at 10 a.m. Dattco, the bus company the PawSox utilize, will go down to Connecticut to pick up the team that morning and provide transportation home.
“From what (Memoli) has told me, the community down there is pumped,” said Murray, who deserves kudos as the game’s originator – he’s the person who contacted Memoli and voiced his kind-hearted intentions to Tolman athletic director John Scanlon and Tamburro, both of whom wasted little time in setting the wheels in motion. “The (Newtown High) kids have gone online and looked at the stadium. They’re really excited to come up and play.”
The game will feature several sponsors: M. Barboza & Sons Roofing and Sheet Metal Company, Inc., Pawtucket Teachers Alliance, Murray Paint & Wallpaper, Seekonk Little League, and Tolman High School. Acting independently, Murray succeeded in raising $600 that he proudly dropped off at McCoy Stadium earlier this week.
“I left it open-ended. Anybody who wanted to make a donation, they would get a T-shirt,” Murray said. “It actually worked out pretty good.”
In return for their generosity, each sponsor received tickets for Saturday. Scanlon mentioned that the $500 donation made by Tolman’s athletic department resulted in 100 tickets that were distributed to the school’s spring teams.
The R.I. Professional Firefighters Pipes & Drums ceremonial band will be on hand at McCoy as part of the pregame festivities. Greetings from Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien will come in the form of a “keys to the city” presentation to the Tolman and Newtown ballclubs. The Pawtucket Police and Fire Departments will also be present.
In keeping with what usually takes place prior to a PawSox home game, there will be a ceremonial first pitch followed by the national anthem performed by a Tolman High student. Before the attention shifts to the action between the white lines, Murray’s children, 11-year-old Cameron and 9-year-old Ally, will declare that it’s time to “Play ball!” into the microphone.
While the weather could prove problematic, Murray says that everyone should be prepared to sit tight in the event the game doesn’t begin at 11:30.
“Connecticut is like Massachusetts; every game they schedule, they have to play it,” the Tigers mentor pointed out. “We’re literally going to hang around all day if we need to in order to get this in.”
Murray said that he’s received strong interest from the Rhode Island high school umpires, who plan to donate their time (the size of the crew could range anywhere from four to six, which is commonly seen during Major League Baseball’s postseason). The teams will be allowed to liberally substitute without having to report to the home plate umpire. The 10-run mercy rule has been waved as seven innings are scheduled.
Memoli’s roster includes 19 players while Murray plans to dress around 18. Every single Tolman player is expected to see time.
Once the final out is recorded, members of the PawSox, Tigers, and Nighthawks will gather underneath the barbeque tent located down the right-field line. Undoubtedly, the Newtown folks will express gratitude, with the hosts responding, “It was our sincere pleasure.”
For those whose interest is piqued, the ticket office at McCoy will be open beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday with the gates opening at 10:30.
“I’ve heard from so many groups of organizations and people saying that they’re going,” Murray said. “We hope that it’s a huge turnout.”
Question is: will you be present to support this worthwhile endeavor?