The Triple-A ballclub that plays together also bowls together?
Yes, and it’s done in the name of a very good cause.
Every season, the Pawtucket Red Sox put down the gloves and bats and pick up bowling balls at East Providence Lanes – located two miles away from McCoy Stadium – to raise money for The Tomorrow Fund, a Rhode Island-based nonprofit organization that provides financial and emotional support to children with cancer and their families. This year’s event took place on Thursday, July 26. As usual, everyone had a good time.
Inside the PawSox clubhouse, the tone that stresses the importance of the “Strike Out Cancer” event was set when manager Kevin Boles hung a notice on the bulletin board. Mandatory attendance was expected, as Boles requested that directions to East Providence Lanes be printed and placed inside each locker.
Minor-league ballplayers aren’t the beneficiaries of too many nights away from the ballyard during the season. Even when there’s a scheduled off day, it could be compromised due to traveling from one city to the next. They’re around each other enough, grinding it on out the field and alternating between bus and plane rides, so that it’s perfectly understandable if everyone wishes to go their separate ways for one night.
The PawSox had already logged a full day at McCoy prior to transitioning to a sport that like baseball stresses the importance of strike throwing. They played an 11 a.m. game that lasted 10 innings with Columbus prevailing, 6-4. To the player’s credit, they were able to put the tough loss behind them and get their bowling groove on for the benefit of kids whose own personal challenges are far greater than any loss on the diamond.
With good intentions in their hearts and smiles on their faces, the PawSox put their best feet forward on a night that saw them once again come together, albeit in a vastly different setting than what they’re normally accustomed to.
“To be able to get away and have fun together … we really don’t get that opportunity that often, especially as an entire group,” PawSox relief pitcher Robby Scott said. “It’s something that I love doing … the ability to give back to a community that does so much for you.”
Added first baseman/outfielder Sam Travis, who participated in his first PawSox bowling event on The Tomorrow Fund’s behalf, “It’s great to represent the PawSox and the Red Sox and help put smiles on kids’ faces. This is a great event and I’m glad to be a part of it.”
“We spend a lot of time together, no doubt about it,” Boles said. “To get away from the ballpark and touch families that are going through a rough patch, that was good.”
These were just some of the positive responses that Tomorrow Fund Board of Directors member Rosemary Huestis picked up on as she traveled from lane to lane. She greeted each player, who was paired up with a Tomorrow Fund patient. Some of the PawSox players enhanced the evening by bringing their families to East Providence Lanes.
“For them to dedicate their time to the kids and our organization shows what great people they truly are,” stated Lisa Abbenante, Executive Director for The Tomorrow Fund.
The excitement displayed by the youngsters whenever their PawSox bowling partner succeeded in knocking down a high number of pins was easy to spot.
“The kids would say, ‘That’s my guy!'” Huestis said. “For our kids to have something like this and have someone come pay attention to them is a big deal.”
“The players and front office staff are happy to be here, but this event is more about the kids,” said Joe Bradlee, PawSox Director of Communications/Community Relations.
The bowling arrangement between the PawSox and The Tomorrow Fund started in 2012. Through the years the two organizations have added additional charitable twists that still stick to the core principle of aiding those in need. For the past few seasons at McCoy Stadium, fans who purchase soft balls before the fifth inning test their aim as a pickup truck takes to the field and circles the warning track. All the proceeds raised from this popular in-game feature – appropriately dubbed “Hurl The Pearl” – go directly to The Tomorrow Fund.
Whether the support is financial or done with the intentions of brightening someone’s day, The Tomorrow Fund knows they have a good thing going when it comes to the organization’s partnership with the PawSox.
“The support the PawSox give us is amazing. They give us a lot of publicity and help make us known,” Huestis said.
As three hours of intense bowling competition drew to a close, a PawSox staffer grabbed the microphone at East Providence Lanes. Each player had autographed the special t-shirt they were asked to wear to the event and it was time to begin the raffle for the “shirt off their backs.” As the ticket numbers were announced, the youngsters on hand clasped their hands tightly, hoping they had a match.
It was a sequence that eventually led to even more smiles as one at a time, the kids made their way to the counter to claim their prize. Call it a fitting capper to an evening where baseball players staged a different sort of rally that was rooted in bowling and fighting cancer.
“It’s always good to watch the players interact with the fans,” Boles said. “Plus it’s for a great cause.”
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