SPOTSWOOD, NJ - The borough community rallied behind the Spotswood Chargers U12 and their bid to go to Cooperstown this summer to play in the Cooperstown Dreams Park Baseball Tournament. The tournament is a "Field of Dreams" tournament for 12-year-olds across the nation. This Chargers U12 team was the first one from Spotswood to represent the community in the once in a lifetime tournament. They have spent the last two years fundraising for the trip.
Some area teams began fundraising during the coronavirus pandemic by selling much-needed face coverings. Dan Lennan, the team dad of the U12 team, was not comfortable making money from a mask fundraiser during a time period when most of the community was struggling with New Jersey's COVID-19 battle this spring. So he and head coach Matt Saracino came up with a plan to pay it forward instead.
"What we decided was for every four we sell, we can donate one," Lennan explained. "We wanted to donate to first responders and people like that."
The Chargers U12 mask sale took off like wildfire thanks to social media sites like Facebook. Many people throughout the community purchased the black masks with the Chargers' symbol on it while others simply donated money so that masks could be given to those in need like first responders. The team's mask sale took place when there was a severe mask shortage for frontline workers and those hardest hit by the virus; the senior population.
First in line for the team's donations was the Spotswood Police Department. Next up was the Spotswood Volunteer Fire Department and a group of 50 plus seniors in the borough who were in need of face coverings. In the end, the team was left with $265 from their mask selling and decided to continue to give back by donating the money to the St. Peter's Thrift Shop on Main Street. The money will allow the shop to purchase new shelving to help expand their inventory. On Saturday, the players stopped by the Thrift Shop on its reopening day for a special presentation.
"One of the many things you learn from playing baseball is how great it is to be a part of a team," Mikey Palumbo said on behalf of his teammates during the presentation. "What we have learned from playing on this team is that we are a part of a larger community. A community that has supported us, shared in our victories and helped us raise the funds that we need to grow and be successful. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit us, we realized we had the opportunity to give back to that community, and we did it in the way we accomplish everything; together."
"The Spotswood community purchased almost 900 face masks allowing us to donate almost 200 to the first responders and the senior residents in town," Palumbo continued. "With the extra masks we were able to sell, we raised an extra $265 which we would like to donate."
"On behalf of our team, please accept this donation as a thank you for all you do for the Spotswood team and the surrounding community," Palumbo said to Cathy Decker of the St. Peter's Thrift Shop. "We know you will use it to help a lot of people have a better day."
Decker is one of the many volunteers that help make the Thrift Shop and the other charitable endeavors of St. Peter's Episcopal Church run. She was moved to tears by the donation from the team.
"The work that we do here is really important," Decker said of the Thrift Shop and Alice's CUP Food Pantry. "You don't know what this means to us. You are helping the very families of the kids that you are sitting next to and playing against. I am so proud of you."
Wearing their home jerseys, Spotswood Chargers baseball caps and the masks they sold for their charitable fundraiser, the Chargers U12 baseball team posed for pictures along with the staff from the St. Peter's Thrift Shop that was preparing to open for the first time since closing during the height of the coronavirus pandemic in New Jersey.
The Chargers U12 team consists of Hunter Krainski, Mikey Palumbo, Gavin Romeo, Derek Mate, Shawn Lennan, Caden Sternlieb, Andrew Newhard, Sebby Saracino, John Lubin, Stephen Barnacz, Joey O'Halloran, William Bucham, and Riley Gorman. Unfortunately, since New York Governor Andrew Cuomo did not lift the ban on overnight summer camps, the team's "Field of Dreams" trip to Cooperstown was canceled, leaving the players and their families devastated. Players can only play in the Cooperstown Dreams Park Baseball Tournament when they are 12.
However, instead of using the money to play in an out-of-state tournament, the team along with their families will get their trip to Cooperstown after all. Next July, the team will be playing in a U13 tournament in Cooperstown. It won't be quite the same, but they will still get to experience the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum like they do most things; together.