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

Baseball Miracles Clinic Brings the Game Home for Newburgh Kids
Nate Whitchurch
Professional baseball scouts Dennis Sheehan of the Arizona Diamondbacks, left, and Willie Fraser of the Florida Marlins teach youngsters how to throw at the Baseball Miracles baseball and softball clinic at the Armory Unity Center in Newburgh Feb. 4. Fraser, a Newburgh native, pitched for five Major League teams in eight seasons, and Sheehan, an Ulster County resident, has been a scout for 20 years.

Marlboro’s Roy Underwood Jr. plays six different positions but enjoys shortstop the most because Yankees legend Derek Jeter played the position.

The 8-year-old was one of the 150 boys and girls being taught baseball and softball by instructors at a Baseball Miracles clinic at the Armory Unity Center in Newburgh Feb. 4.

“I just like playing baseball,” Roy said when asked why he was attending the clinic.

Baseball Miracles provides free baseball and softball instruction to children from economically or environmentally disadvantaged regions throughout the world. The nonprofit organization has brought the game to regions of the United States as well as to Canada, Ireland, Honduras, Argentina, South Africa and Kenya.

The Baseball Miracles team arrived in Newburgh early to prepare the armory and performed community service by picking up garbage from the streets of Newburgh on Saturday. Also that day, they attended Mass celebrated by Father Giuseppe Maria Siniscalchi, C.F.R., at St. Mary’s Church in Newburgh.

At Sunday’s clinic, Hudson Valley Renegades Vice President Rick Zolzer delivered opening remarks. The Renegades are the New York-Penn League Class A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Baseball Miracles Founder and CEO John Tumminia, a parishioner of St. Mary’s in Marlboro, followed with his talk and presented recognition awards.

Ben Cherington, vice president of baseball operations for the Toronto Blue Jays, was the first of two guest speakers. He spoke to the young players about having fun, the importance of practice and how to be a good teammate.

“Today is special because I’ve heard a lot through John (Tumminia) about what Baseball Miracles is doing,” said Cherington, who is married to Tumminia’s daughter, Tyler.

“To see the impact right here in a place we call our hometown, and kids that live in the area in this great facility that’s been kind of brought back to life, drives home what the spirit of Baseball Miracles is all about.”

The children received instruction in throwing, running, fielding and hitting from professional baseball scouts, college coaches and high school coaches. Each child received a glove and a baseball, and took part in the Take Me to the Ballgame luncheon with hot dogs, chips and drinks following their day of baseball and softball.

Newburgh native Willie Fraser, a Miami Marlins scout and former pitcher for the California Angels, was the luncheon speaker.

Dave Onusko, a parishioner at St. Mary’s in Marlboro, is a retired teacher and baseball coach at Marlboro High School where he coached Rob Bell and Dee Brown, who both went on to play in the majors. He said he was aware of Baseball Miracles through newspaper stories and items in the parish bulletin. A few months ago, Tumminia came up to him in church to ask him to participate.

“This was a blast,” he said. “Anytime you can get involved with baseball this time of the year indoors or outdoors, it’s a fun thing. When you have youth like this who show that much interest and have that much enthusiasm, it’s just a blast.”

Newburgh’s Dan Wilson learned about the clinic from a Facebook post and was watching his 7-year-old daughter, Zoe Jallow, and 6-year-old nephew, Terrance Williams.

“What they’re doing here today is important to the community and I’m enjoying it a lot. I’m seeing a lot of little kids and they’re having fun. It’s a good thing,” Wilson said.

With its mission in Newburgh accomplished, Baseball Miracles is preparing for a clinic at Yankee Stadium, its first in a Major League Baseball stadium, on Aug. 4.

“The Yankees have opened up Yankee Stadium for us to teach the kids from the South Bronx,” Tumminia said. “I’m going to be working with New York Yankees scout Caesar Presbott and we’re bringing in 500 kids. We’re giving all of them T-shirts, gloves, baseballs and hot dogs. We’re really excited about it.”


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