PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. – The first Coaches vs. Umpires softball game for cancer awareness organized by Pleasantville teacher/coach Joseph Racioppo last Friday received support from both camps throughout Westchester County.
There was no crowd on hand, Racioppo said, but that was not the focus of the day. The important thing was the game.
“That to me is a victory in itself,” said Racioppo, who lost his wife to cancer last year. “The crowd didn’t really matter. We had enough fun by ourselves.”
Nine coaches faced 13 umpires at Pleasantville High School after weeks of charity events and shows of solidarity from coaches and umpires leading up to the game. Each participant donated $20 to play, and many coaches organized activities at their high schools during the regular baseball season.
Many coaches decorated their field with pink chalk lines and bases and used pink balls. Pleasantville’s Bob Jordon held a fundraiser in which the school sold bracelets and brought in $800. Fox Lane coach Matt Hillis dressed in a pink uniform and raised hundreds of dollars.
Coaches at Ardsley, Byram Hills, Harrison, North Salem and Rye Neck organized similar events.
“All these guys took into account what their season was about and left some time aside and made it more entertaining for their kids as well,” Racioppo said.
Racioppo said he hopes to make more of a statement next year.
“This is just cancer awareness. All we want to do is make baseball the lead runner in the spring sports to raise the awareness of cancer,” he said.
The game was filled with good-natured ribbing and trash talk. Coaches from Pleasantville, Pelham, North Salem, Irvington, Byram Hills and Rye Neck scored an 18-12 victory and won bragging rights. In a truly touching moment, Brewster coach Ed Mulvahill, who was instrumental in organizing coaches for the game, made it to the game even though he had lost his father to cancer earlier in the month.
“That’s the type of coaches we’re dealing with,” Racioppo said.
Four freshman umpires, those in their first or second year on the job, officiated the game, and both teams sent some wisecracks toward the young officials. Racioppo hopes to make the annual game a trial by fire for the new umpires as they start their officiating careers.
The game even brought the two sides together as five coaches have been invited to an umpires dinner.
Friday’s contest was the culmination of months of planning by Racioppo, who lost his wife to cancer last year. After all that work, Racioppo got to enjoy the fruits of his labor.
“The game was just icing on the cake for me,” Racioppo said.