First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Marlboro Parishioner Spans Globe With ‘Baseball Miracles’ Team
By DAN PIETRAFESA
Courtesy of Baseball Miracles
Baseball Miracles founder and director John Tumminia, a parishioner of St. Mary’s in Marlboro, instructs ballplayers in Kenya last October.

John Tumminia just completed one mission and is preparing for two more. But there is baseball equipment to collect, money to be raised and his work as a scout in his 30th season with the Chicago White Sox before the trips later this year.

Tumminia, a parishioner of St. Mary’s in Marlboro, is the director and founder of Baseball Miracles, a nonprofit group of baseball and softball instructors who teach boys and girls with economic and environmental disadvantages throughout the world.

Baseball Miracles, which began in 2011, has visited Ireland, South Africa, Kenya, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The group is planning trips this year to an Indian village near Vancouver, British Columbia, and Appalachia in Kentucky.

“We always come out of these trips gratified and looking forward to the next trip. The children were great everywhere we’ve been,’’ said Tumminia, a resident of the Town of Newburgh and a member of the Professional Baseball Scouts Hall of Fame.

The clinics include baseball/softball instruction, distribution of donated equipment to children and a picnic where children are served food they may enjoy at a baseball game like hot dogs, peanuts, sunflower seeds and Big League Chew gum. Photographer Todd Bliss takes pictures on the trips and prepares personal baseball cards for each child.

Tumminia, 63, returned from a January trip to Honduras spiritually uplifted by attending Mass with the children and praying at the clinic with the kids. Baseball Miracles counselors presented Divine Mercy prayer cards and booklets to the children, who led a prayer service for the visitors in Spanish.

“I think it’s wonderful. They’re working with the poor and they’re bringing religion into it,’’ said Father Thomas Dicks, pastor at St. Mary’s.

“John is a very dedicated person who really put his mind into doing this, and I hope he continues to do it.’’

Baseball Miracles includes Tumminia; coordinator and instructor Michael McCarthy, a pitcher in the Boston Red Sox organization; adviser/instructor Clay Daniels, scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks; coach/instructor Jared Banner, director of player personnel for the Boston Red Sox; advisor/instructor Brother Thomas Joseph McGrinder, C.F.R., a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal; and coach/instructor Bridget McCabe, who played softball at Our Lady of Lourdes High School in Poughkeepsie and is now director of marketing for the Frederick Keys of the Carolina League.

“I need to give back because of all the blessings I’ve had in my life,’’ said Ms. McCabe, who visited South Africa with Baseball Miracles. “It’s so mind-blowing there are these places outside your life. They have less than you do and they may be happier. Seeing their faces light up when we gave them a glove is something that will always be in my mind.”

To raise money and equipment, Baseball Miracles turns to professional baseball organizations, collects donations from the general public and operates baseball clinics. The Frederick Keys, a Class A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, have raised money through 50-50 raffles and collected new and used equipment from fans in exchange for game tickets.

The Hudson Valley Renegades—the New York-Penn League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays in Dutchess County—collect baseball gloves from patrons in exchange for free tickets. The Renegades have collected up to 125 baseball gloves in a season since starting its program.

“We’re doing it because John is making it happen. Whatever he needs, we’re going to be there for him,’’ said Rick Zolzer, vice president for the Renegades.

Baseball Miracles will conduct one-day clinics like the one coming up on March 12 at Extra Innings in Wappingers Falls. Clinics will include professional baseball scouts and possibly current/former players as instructors/guest speakers.

Kansas City Royals pitcher Wade Davis appeared at a clinic held at Our Lady of Lourdes last year, and several members of the Red Sox family—including former players Pedro Martinez and Jason Varitek, manager John Farrell and Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations—surprised the Baseball Miracles staff by appearing at the Red Sox/Baseball Miracles RBI Clinic in Brookline, Mass., on Feb. 2.

“When you see Pope Francis doing what he’s doing, he’s not just showing up and leaving. He’s making an impact. It’s a great example of how we see our group moving with this project,’’ Tumminia said.

Information: www.baseballmiracles.org

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