BRIDGEWATER, NJ — The Somerset Patriots and Diamond Nation have partnered for a special event to raise money for a member of their family, former coach and instructor Ben Fonseca.

Fonseca is battling systemic scleroderma, an autoimmune disorder where healthy tissue is being destroyed because the immune system mistakenly thinks it’s a foreign substance or infection. The cause is unknown and there is no current cure. 

The Somerset Patriots and Diamond Nation have planned a fundraising event at TD Bank Ballpark for the Wednesday, June 27, game against the New Britain Bees scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Tickets are being sold for $10 for the fundraiser by Diamond Nation and online by the Somerset Patriots by visiting www.somersetpatriots.com/ben. Proceeds from the tickets purchased will benefit the Fonseca family and help with medical bills and expenses.

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“Ben is and will always be a part of our family,” said Somerset Patriots President/General Manager Patrick McVerry. “It is truly heartbreaking to see everything he and his family are going through. We want to do our part to bring our fans and community together to help them get through this difficult time and hopefully show them they are not alone in the fight.”

At the game, the team will host a 50-50 raffle for the Fonseca family and players, coaches, and members of Diamond Nation teams will be on site and participate in various activities on the field and throughout the ballpark.

The Fonseca family has also set up a GoFundMe page to accept donations with the goal of raising $50,000 to help Ben and his family with all his medical expenses, treatment and medication.  

Over the last 10 months, Fonseca has spent five of them in the hospital, missing time with his wife Tonilynn and three young children Ben IV (13), Mason (10), and Sage (6).

Fonseca served as a coach for the Somerset Patriots from 2000 through 2002 and helped the team win their first championship in 2001. In 2002, he also worked as the team’s Director of Baseball Operations. He returned to the Somerset Patriots in 2006 for another season as a coach.

Fonseca has worked as an instructor at Diamond Nation from 2004 through 2009 before returning in 2015 to instruct and coach the Diamond Jacks teams. 

“Ben has been a part of the Diamond Nation family for quite some time and over the years has touched so many lives on the baseball field, not only teaching baseball, but teaching life lessons to today’s youth through the sport that Ben loves so much,” said Diamond Nation President Keith Dilgard.  “It is so difficult to see someone who was so physically strong and tough suffer from this terrible disease.  Our heart goes out to Ben, his wife Toni and three boys - Ben, Mason and Sage.  Hopefully we can bring some awareness and support from the baseball and softball community to help a fellow family member through this difficult time.”

Fonseca has also been a scout for the Milwaukee Brewers and has served in the Atlantic League in several roles with the league office, the Newark Bears, and Atlantic City Surf.

He is currently being treated aggressively with monthly chemotherapy, in addition to oral medications. Since his diagnosis, Fonseca has lost 115 pounds due to his digestive system being unable to absorb nutrients properly.

The scleroderma has also resulted in an overlap of mixed connective tissue disease where his muscles swell, become stiff, painful and weak. This includes his heart, lungs, kidneys and his gastro intestinal system. 

“Ben has spent his entire adult life helping others,” said his wife Tonilynn. “He has coached baseball as high as the professional level all the way down to the youth level, and everywhere in between.  He has positively impacted the lives of hundreds.  Coaches don't stay in baseball to get rich. They stay in it for the gratification of being an influence on the lives of their players. We are asking everyone to help a man who has spent so much time helping others.”

For more about the fundraiser for Ben Fonseca, please visit www.somersetpatriots.com/ben.