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Show of support for Tolman-Newtown evident at McCoy Stadium

April 20, 2013

Members of the Newtown High School baseball team from Newtown, Conn. (in green) pause with the Tolman High School team on the infield during the singing of the National Anthem prior to the start of a benefit game at McCoy Stadium on Saturday. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN.

PAWTUCKET – The telling numbers from the high-school baseball summit that transformed McCoy Stadium into a special place Saturday weren’t five and three – five being the number of runs Tolman High produced compared to the three scored by the guests of honor – Connecticut’s Newtown High.

For scoreboards don’t measure things like outpourings of community pride, or the effort to support a worthwhile cause. Success on those counts, rather, was determined when public address announcer Robert Masse let the McCoy crowd know that 916 fans passed through the turnstiles and that a check for $8,500 would be presented to the Sandy Hook School Workers Assistance Fund.

It would have been perfectly acceptable for supporters to wear rally caps on this day, one that began under the cover of threatening clouds and concluded with blue sky. The turnout exceeded just about everyone’s expectations and shows what can result when a congregation rooted in kindness and generosity bands together.

“(Pawtucket Red Sox President) Mike Tamburro and I talked during the week. He was thinking about 500 (generous customers), and I said ‘I’m aiming for 1,000,” said John Scanlon, athletic director at Tolman. “I kidded to him that I was a lot closer than you were.

“The community and the people of Pawtucket truly came out and supported this,” Scanlon added while a group of Newtown players were busy nearby taking cell phone pictures of McCoy.

The activity in the stands echoed Scanlon’s observation. Support came in many different forms, the most notable in the presence of entire teams. In one section, you had the North Smithfield High contingent. In another section were the varsity baseballers from Cranston West and Wheeler School.

The softball team from St. Raphael Academy elected to take refuge in the red box seats behind the protective netting that guards home plate. Representatives from Pineview Little League also turned out.

Rest assured that their presence did not go unnoticed by those who were on the field.

“We were involved in the Division II championship in 2005 and this crowd today was bigger than we had for [decisive] Game 3,” said Tolman head coach Theo Murray, referencing the program’s title-clincher against Portsmouth. “That was awesome, just totally awesome.”

Plenty of familiar localites dotted the crowd, among them longtime St. Raphael basketball and baseball coach Tom “Saar” Sorrentine and Mount St. Charles baseball mentor Tom Seaver. Pawtucket Mayor Donald R. Grebien made the rounds after presenting keys to the city to Tolman's Murray and his counterpart from Newtown, Matt Memoli.

What caught the fancy of Tolman’s Chris Baldwin was looking up at the faces and seeing those in which the senior catcher made a connection during a recent “Reading Week” visit to Potter-Burns Elementary School.

“A kid came up to myself and Jason (Maynard, Tolman center fielder) and talked to us, saying that it was the coolest thing to see us out there,” Baldwin shared. “We told the teachers and students that we had a big baseball game against Newtown coming up and to come out and support it.”

Judging by the attendance and the money raised, the pledge for unity and human kindness did not go unheeded.

***

In Tamburro’s eyes, the day was already a success the moment the Newtown players and coaches stepped off the bus at 9:30 a.m., their journey starting at 7 o’clock sharp.

“I saw people who were excited and so appreciative,” relayed Tamburro. “They all came over and introduced themselves and told us how excited they were to be here.”

If mind-numbing events such as the tragedies that marred Sandy Hook Elementary School in December and last Monday's Boston Marathon leave you feeling unsure, the tireless efforts and commitment on the part of Tolman and the PawSox helped provide a strong dose of reassurance.

“Something like this fulfills a need to do something, and allows us as a community to give back,” stated Tamburro as he took a long, fond look at the action taking place.

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