Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Special Olympians Teach Us All About the Scoreboard That Counts

Recently, a reader thanked me for choosing to walk down the "road less traveled" in my pursuit of presenting sports stories about the "good guys".

It meant as much to me as any compliment I could possibly receive as it made me feel as though my quest to show the goodness of sports is being noticed and recognized.

However, I took it not as an accolade about my writing skills as much as an acknowledgement that the high road still exists in sports despite this oft-crazy world that surrounds us.

I met one such blazer of the high road at a recent baseball game for the Lowell Spinners, the Class A Affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. It's amazing how God often places stories right before me. Stories that are aching to be told without my even knowing that they are there.

I had scored Standing Room Only tickets to the Spinners game as they took on the vaunted Batavia Muckdogs (where else, but Minor League ball?). That in itself was exciting enough for me. Such is the life of the rookie journalist.

As the game got under way I spied a group of about 25 special needs individuals who filled out most of the top portion of section 113. The group, which seemed to range in age from about 18 to 50, had caught my attention as they took the field with the players at the start of the game.

As each player was announced they were accompanied to their positions with their personal chaperons, who I would later find out were athletes with special needs from the Burlington, MA recreational softball league.

As much as they had captured my attention as they jogged to each position, they had me for keeps when they danced the "Cotton Eyed Joe" during the seventh inning stretch. No, I wasn't laughing at them, I was simply laughing with them.

I watched my friends cheer with every pitch and yell loudly with every swing and a miss. The score didn't matter much to them. They thoroughly enjoyed every pitch, every hit, every out. How I wish life's score board didn't matter to the rest of us, I thought.

I turned to the man standing next to me, who I later found out was Coach Mark Landers. I shook my head as I watched the group of special fans and said, "Until you walk a mile in another man's cleats, huh?"

"We sometimes forget how lucky we all have it," he said.

I soon learned that Landers, is not only the coach of this group of softball heroes, but is the older brother of one of the players, Jenny, who he affectionately refers to as "Jendo."

Landers and the athletes, along with a handful of family members, were taking in the Spinners game that night as a special treat, instead of their weekly trip to the movies.

Landers coaches the Burlington Pride (their self-anointed and unofficial team name) as they scrimmage each week against "special" teams from the Massachusetts towns of Natick, Reading and a local girls youth team. He has coached Jendo and the other athletes since 2004, after a friend told him about the position.

"A friend of mine saw an ad in the paper. Turns out my family knows the individual who was hiring and he contacted me" explains Landers, who is Vice President at Marsh US Consumer in Burlington MA, when not coaching the squad. "I told him I would try it for a year. That was five years ago."

The league is run by the Burlington Parks and Recreation Department and sponsored by the Rotary Club of Burlington.

"They are more of a partner than a sponsor," explained Landers. "We rely on the Rotary to buy our hats and shirts and to fund our annual trip to UMass and the Rec department supplies us with whatever else we need."

"In fact, two of the Rotary members, John Tuccinardi and Lloyd Rosenberg coach year round. Their commitment as Rotarians is for only eight weeks in the summer, but they have made this a year round commitment."

The players, who come from eight different Massachusetts communities, practice and scrimmage all season long leading up to an annual tournament at UMass. There the team takes on squads from Milford, Brookline, and Scituate, MA. The players don't care about the score, in fact, no one even keeps track. Scores are kept, however, during their annual jaunt to UMass.

"The team really looks forward to the weekend at UMass. It is a three-day event. Friday night is check-in and opening ceremony just like the Olympics. Saturday they play two games and then they have a dinner dance."

"Sunday they play two more games and then we head home. We stop at McDonald's for lunch and we sleep in the dorms, which the athletes get a real kick out of."

Landers explained that the quality of play ranges from some very good athletes to beginners. In fact, all of them are Special Olympians as softball is an Official Special Olympics Event. Jendo does Equestrian and went to the World Games in Connecticut in 1996.

"Some have limited ability, but still try and have a lot of fun."

Though he loves each and every athlete on the team, Landers' personal MVP is his little sister, Jendo. That is clear the way the two of them interacted through out the Spinners event. Jendo is aged 34 and is the youngest of eight children. She is the reason that Landers is involved as deeply as he is. It's clear that the love between brother and sister goes much further than their time spent together on the diamond.

"She has a big heart and never says a bad word about anyone. She uses the computer and texts very well. And is she funny."

Jendo has been involved in the Special Olympics for over 22 years, rides a horse and competes at Iron Stone Farm in Andover, MA. She also has 16 nieces and nephews and awaits the birth of Rylee Theresa, Mark and his wife, Michelle's first child, who is due in November.

"She can't wait," Landers told me.

"I reminded Jendo that she agreed to change diapers. But only if it was a girl she told us. Then she said, 'The Godmother can not do it all'."

When not playing softball, many of the athletes hold down regular jobs in their local communities at places like Roche Brothers, Papa Gino's, Westford Rehab, CVS. One of the athletes, Donovan, even lives on his own.

But Landers admits that if most of the team members had their choice they'd spend every waking hour on the softball diamond. I asked Landers about some of his warmest moments as they coach of the Burlington Pride. He got a little choked up but shared a few.

"There are so many. I guess winning the gold medal two years ago, and watching Kevin pitch for the first time in a game. He gave up a dinger and did not like it."

"There was Larry scoring his first and only run and seeing Kyle, who is legally blind getting a hit."

He continued, "And Jill and Jenny making put outs. It may not seem like much, but it was a tremendous accomplishment. Of course, at UMass the dorms and breakfast and dinner time are just lots of fun.

As we continued our chat, Kevin, walked by and gave Coach Landers a high five. The two of them exchanged jokes and Kevin went on his way. Landers shook his head and smiled and went on a ten minute recount of Kevin stories, each seemingly funnier than the one before.

"He's quite a character. Kevin keeps us entertained during the weekend. He is a very funny individual. He dates Stephanie, who is 16 years his junior.

"The first year at UMass he got mad at breakfast and said he was going to play for another team. I said go ahead. He went up at a 14-yr old volunteer and told her he needed to be traded. The look on her face was priceless. Then he went to a coach and asked to play for them.

"When we play the girls team he is always sweet talking them. We go to Applebee's for dinner on Friday and Kevin orders chicken fingers. It comes with Cole Slaw, which he says he loves, but I noticed he is not eating it. Kevin said, 'It gives me diarreha'. We took it away from him.

"The first year there I was ready to kill him. We get to UMass and he has four bags for a two night stay. One of the tall suitcases on wheels contains two cases of 20 oz Diet Pepsi's."

"On the home run he gave up, we asked him what he thought of the home run and he gave us the middle finger. He loves to play and watching him run with his little legs holding up his shorts is priceless. I really could go on and on with him."

Landers continued to over see his squad, but occasionally turned his attention to his wife and his seventy-five year old Mom who he is also the primary care giver for.

"She loves to come to the games, too. She loves watching Jendo play."

"We are fortunate that more and more parents help out. When I first started there was zero parental involvement. In fact, one uncle did nothing but heckle me at first. Now, he's a coach and is involved with his niece and nephew."

"In fact, I couldn't do much of what we do without the help of the parents. Each week we try to take the group to a play or the movies or to do arts and crafts and to dinner. Lydia Brown, who runs the Friday night and Saturday programs the athletes attend, is truly fantastic."

"She organizes all the food, transportation, and uniforms for our trip to UMass. She's also a parent to two of the athletes, Jill and Robert and the mother of my heckler friend. It's a real family affair."

"To be honest though, there is still not as much family involvement as I'd like, including my own extended family which is large. I just wish more family, mine included, would attend".

As the game came to a close with the final score being something to something, I asked Landers what the average fan can do to support the Burlington Pride.

"Donate money and come cheer on the athletes."

"I have been involved in Special Olympics/Special Needs programs since 1988. My Dad asked me to come to one of Jenny's practices. He said two hours a week will not kill you. He was right. It had a profound affect on me."

"If you think you have struggles", he added once again a bit choked up. "Just come to a Special Olympic event. That is what I always tell myself and others."

"Until you walk a mile in another man's cleats, huh?"

"We sometimes forget how lucky we all have it."

Todd Civin is a freelance writer for Bleacher Report, Seamheads and Boston Sports Then and Now. He can be reached at toddcivin1@aim.com for hire or comment. He is also a supporter of A Glove of Their Own, the award winning children's story that teaches paying it forward through baseball.

Please visit the site at www.agloveoftheirown.com and purchase the book under toady's donor code CVH113 Covenant House Foundation as $3.00 from each book sold will be donated to that wonderful charity, while an additional .30 will be used to purchase sporting equipment for underprivileged children.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tina Cervasio Invites Fans From Both Sides of Rivalry to Garden of Dreams Event

As the Red Sox and the Yankees prepare for game two of their nearly meaningless series in the Bronx, one can't help but think of the long list of players whose career resume included stints on both sides of the Massachusetts-New York line.

There is, of course, none more renowned than the Babe and the vaunted curse which hovered over Beantown for the better half of a century following his departure.

The Curse is supplemented by the Sparky Lyle-for-Danny Cater trade in the 70's and defections by Clemens, Boggs, Damon, Zimmer headed west and Mendoza, Wells, and a cameo appearance by Leyritz, heading east.

In each of these examples the defectors were met with spite, cat-calls and boos upon each return to the original stomping grounds.

The once-hero returns as the hated a la the WWE each time one of the traitors took their places between the lines at their former home town field.

So when you stumble across someone is so loved, so respected and revered and held in such a high regard in both of these rival cities, it is a true testament to who they are and what they bring to both of these markets.

From 2006 to 2008, Tina Cervasio spent nearly every evening in the living rooms of Red Sox fans from Aroostook County, Maine, to Block Island as the Red Sox on-field reporter for the New England Sports Network (NESN).

When not dazzling Red Sox fans with her coverage on the field, Cervasio worked tirelessly as the lead correspondent for “Red Sox Hot Stove,” “Red Sox Report,” and other NESN specials and magazine shows, while also contributing to “NESN Sports Desk” on the Red Sox beat and other sports.

Amongst her many Red Sox reporting highlights were the first television interview with Jon Lester, as he began his comeback from cancer, her breaking of the news of Manny Ramirez' injury, which could have hindered the Red Sox as they prepared for the post-season.

She was the first to interview Clay Buchholz following his no-hitter and Curt Schilling following his one-hitter (8 2/3rd innings of no-hit ball); and secured exclusive interviews before each post-season game with Red Sox players during their historic World Championship run.

After two years in Beantown, Cervasio took her show 180 miles down Route 84 when she returned to the New York metro region to join the crew of MSG Media.

Cervasio's career actually started in the Tri-State area in various capacities following her graduation from the University of Maryland in 1996.

She is now the popular host, anchor, and reporter for MSG and MSG+Plus, live events and original programming. She works as the courtside reporter for Knicks road games and conducts pre-game and post-game interviews for all Knicks games.

In addition to her many vocational accolades, Cervasio prides herself on her involvement in the community and works tirelessly to raise money for charity.

While in Boston, Tina was heavily involved in fund-raising for the Jimmy Fund. Since heading to New York, Cervasio has become deeply committed to raising funds for Garden of Dreams, a non-profit charity that helps fulfill wishes for kids in crisis in the New York area.

Cervasio will be run her second consecutive New York City Marathon on Nov. 1 as part of the MSG Dream Team to raise funds for the Garden of Dreams.

Tonight (Sept. 26), Cervasio and friends invite all Red Sox and Yankee fans to Foley's the New York City Irish Bar with the Baseball Attitude, for a fund-raising event for the Garden of Dreams Foundation.

The event will begin at 7:30 and continue until closing time. Foley's is located at 18 W. 33rd St., between 5th and 6th avenues in New York City.

Cervasio, along with Foley's owner Shaun Clancy, promise good fun, great sports talk, prizes, raffles, and auction items including:

  • Signed Red Sox Jason Bay bat
  • Signed Red Sox Josh Beckett baseball
  • Signed Red Sox Mike Lowell jersey
  • Signed Yankees Joba Chamberlain photo
  • Signed NY Knicks NBA Hall of Famer Walt “Clyde” Frazier basketball
  • Tickets to MSG events, Gift Certificates, and many Knicks, Giants, Nets and Rangers items expected.

Cervasio was kind enough to pull herself from her hectic schedule to answer a few questions about the event.

Civ: How did you become associated with Garden of Dreams?

Tina: "Garden of Dreams" is a non-profit charity that works closely with all areas of Madison Square Garden, including the Knicks, Rangers, Liberty, MSG Media, MSG Entertainment, and Fuse “to make dreams come true for kids in crisis.”

I'm under the MSG Media umbrella and because Garden of Dreams was so similar to the Red Sox Foundation, which I also was involved in, I jumped in full steam ahead.

Garden of Dreams creates unique and unforgettable events and activities, often involving unprecedented access to Madison Square Garden celebrities, events, and venues, that have brightened the lives of thousands of special children and their families.

Civ: With your busy schedule, how do you find the time to volunteer?

Tina: How could you not be touched and inspired by knowing the Foundation does this? Partnering with a diverse collection of children’s related organizations, from hospitals to foster organizations to homeless shelters and “wish” organizations, the Garden of Dreams Foundation has a singular goal each and every day: to utilize the power and magic of Madison Square Garden and its properties to bring joy and happiness to children facing devastating problems: whether they relate to illness, homelessness, poverty, foster care issues, or tragedy.

I've had a very blessed life, and I'm living my dream as a sports broadcaster in the nation's largest television market, holding one of 30 possible jobs (NBA team sideline reporter), the least I could do is give back to these kids in the Tri-State Area.

Civ: What you think about while you're running?

Tina: My mind is all over the place. Sometimes I'm very focused on how my body feels and what pace I am running. But I can't do that for four hours. It makes me even more tired.

Some days, I sort of map out the rest of my day, go through my list of things to do that week in work. Other runs, I visualize running the marathon, and finishing in under four hours. Which won't happen.

There are some morning runs where I just totally day dream. "What if I lived in Italy?" kind of day dreams. And some runs, and this is rare, but when it happens it's a blessing, you just get into a zone.

You are not really thinking about anything, and this is usually when you're running over the two-hour mark. These are the best runs, because there are times when you look at your watch (Mine is a Garmin which logs my miles, keeps my pace, heart rate, etc.) and it tells you you've just covered nine miles, and you don't even realize it.

Civ: Have you met any of the kids from Garden of Dreams?

Tina: I've met lots of children that have been involved in the Garden of Dreams, many of them while they're on their "Dream Experience" at Madison Square Garden. We also have "MSG Classroom" where teenagers from Children's Aid Society come to the Garden to learn how to be sports broadcasters and television sports producers.

They interview players, host segments, interview fans on the street. I have worked with the group several times in their final phase, which is producing an actual 30-minute sports show.

I'm really impressed with the girls. They know their sports, and really want to write and the say the correct things with a lot of passion. I love when they get all nervous before interviewing a player. Then they come back to me and say, "he's kind of normal."

Last year, I did a series on marathon training for our nightly sports show. With that, I reported on "Why we run," and with that story, I spent a day with Charlie Pena and his mother Yvonne, when they were living at the Ronald McDonald House, one of the Garden of Dreams partner organizations.

Civ: Can you tell me about Charlie?

Tina: Charlie and his younger brother, Michael (who was hospitalized when I visited) both suffer from sickle-cell anemia. Loooong story short, when they couldn't find a bone marrow match, they turned to their youngest brother, Kyle. He was a match!

At about 5 years old, he had the surgery to pull his bone marrow, to save his older brothers.

Both Charlie and Michael are doing great! They have come to the Garden on all sorts of occasions. They always say to me, and the parents agree, it just takes their mind of their troubles and the pain.

Whether it's Nate Robinson visiting them in the hospital, participating in the ceremonial first-tip at the Garden, going to an AC/DC concert. It's all kids' stuff, but it's a part of the healing process. And for the Pena family, they say they couldn't have survived without the support of Garden of Dreams.

In fact, Charlie and Michael's parents, Yvonne and Carlos, are invited to my party. Hope they can make it, I want to introduce them to everyone to see, where their money is going.

Civ: How you think the event will be attended since the Sox are in town?

Tina: I've got all my buds from the Boston media coming after the Sox-Yanks game, including my former producers, and friends from NESN that will be in town, of course! There are several Red Sox front office and community outreach people coming as well. Hope it's not a five-hour game.

I'll reach out to some players and coaches I've remained close with, when I'm working Friday night at the game. But, because they have an early game Sunday, I doubt anyone will really be in the mood. It's an important one for the Sox, trying to lock up that Wild Card.

Meanwhile, I have to run an 18-mile race Sunday morning! It's a special NYRR Marathon Tune-up run through Central Park.

One of the best prep races for the marathon. So I won't be "partying" Saturday night. Just trying to raise money, and make sure my guests have a good time. Plus, a lot of my colleagues from MSG and the Knicks say they will be attending.

Civ: Do you still have a lot of Sox fan friends?

Tina:
Yes! And I try to keep in touch with whatever fans have reached out to me. Twitter and Linked-In have been great, connecting me with Red Sox fans all over the country!

Meanwhile, two-thirds of my Knicks MSG production crew: Huge Red Sox Fans!

My director grew up in Western Connecticut, PASSIONATE FAN! And our AD is from Massachusetts. Both guys went to UMASS. It's a riot being with them all the time.

Because the rest of the bunch, well, they are Yankees fans. We drive them nuts. Mets really get no love. It's amazing. Ha! No pun intended. TC

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for Bleacher Report, Seamheads and Sports Then and Now. To learn more about Garden of Dreams visit www.gardenofdreamsfoundation.org. If you can't make the party at Foley's but want to help, Tina meet her fund-raising goals, please donate at www.firstgiving.com/tinacervasio1.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

NY Giant Great George Martin Continues His Journey For 911

The ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, is credited with the oft-uttered saying "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." If this is true, then former New York Giant co-captain George Martin's Journey for 911 must have commenced with three times as many single steps.

And on the way, my mathematical conclusion is that Martin's amazing 3,003-mile trip from the George Washington Bridge in New York City to San Diego consisted of approximately 15,855,840 single steps, none less important than the one before.

For each of Martin's steps, from Sept. 16, 2007 to June 21, 2008, represented his attempt to raise awareness of the plight of the Heroes of Ground Zero and to raise funds to support their ongoing medical needs.

Martin is back in the news today and appeared with his band of walkers on this morning's Sunday version of the Today Show in New York City, as he has turned his Journey for 911 Walk into an annual fundraising event.

It is clear that Martin doesn't want the steps he's taken to be his steps alone and has enlisted the support of all Americans from sea to shining sea as he continues to raise funds and awareness.

Today he and hundreds of volunteer fundraisers will be joined by Hall of Famer Harry Carson, former Giant running back, OJ Anderson, Danny Masterson of That 70s Show, and other sports and entertainment celebrities as they walk from the George Washington Bridge in New York City to Giants Stadium.

Top fundraisers in the event will walk onto the field of Giants Stadium as the New York Football Giants open their final season with the Washington Redskins and participate in an exclusive tailgate party at the new corporate office of the New York Football Giants.

Martin founded the organization in 2007 as his way to serve the health needs and improve the well-being of the Heroes of 911, the thousands of first responders who put others first in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001.

To manage its day-to-day operations, Journey for 911 named George Martin II its executive director in 2008. He works closely with the board of directors and staff to identify and implement Journey's fund-raising efforts.

Martin's 3,003 mile Journey for 911 began at the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 16, 2007 and brought him through portions of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

For his efforts, Martin raised over $2,000,000.

Along the way, the retired NFL great visited schools, fire houses, police stations, government offices and other places where he raised funds for and awareness about the plight of Ground Zero workers.

He concluded the Journey on June 21, 2008, in San Diego.

Martin has participated in hundreds of media interviews about the medical plight of the 9/11 workers, resulting in thousands of news reports and substantially raising the nation's awareness about this issue.

For his charitable efforts, George has received numerous awards and honors. ABC News named him one of its 2007 "Persons of the Year" and he received the prestigious Heisman Humanitarian Award. Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey bestowed Martin with an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree for his lifelong commitment to community service.

In 2008, Voices of September 11, an advocacy for 911 victims and their families, gave George its "Building Bridges" award for his efforts on behalf of first responders.

Martin encourages the support of all Americans by asking you to visit his site at www.ajourneyfor911.info or by phoning in a donation to 1-877-WALK-911 (877-925-5911).

A special thanks to both George Martin and his associate John Mooney who made Martin available to me to interview. I was unable to hear the thoughts of this Giant of a man however and hope to do a personal interview with him in the future. I encourage your support of this worthwhile endeavor-Todd Civin



Friday, September 11, 2009

When The World Decided to Share My Birthday

By Julia Civin ( Todd's daughter)

Living in an industrialized, materialistic country, such as the United States, we sometimes forget what is truly important. Our society has the tendency to reinforce the belief that making big bucks, driving fancy cars, and owning all the toys, is the gateway to happiness.

As a child, I too, bought into this concept. How much, how big, how many?

We hold these beliefs until something comes along that demands that we put our life priorities back in order. Some how reshuffle the deck of life’s cards. Unfortunately, in this case, my priorities were reshuffled by a traumatic national tragedy.

I remember vividly, lying in my bed on the night of September 10th, 2001. I was nine, soon to be double digits at last. Not a teenager, but a ten-year-old girl. I could not get to sleep, as I thought about all of my birthday festivities for the following day.

Tomorrow was going to be a huge day. I could hardly contain my excitement. I had asked my mother for the gift of all gifts.

I so wanted the American Girl Doll, “Samantha,” and had an inkling I would be surprised with her. She had dark brown hair and hazel eyes, just like me, and she was the only thing I wanted in the whole wide world.

I woke up on 9/11 and everything in the world was perfect. I nearly left my pajamas in my blankets, jumping out of bed as fast as I did. I got dressed in my favorite outfit and never touched a stair on the way from my bedroom to the kitchen.

My day hit a speed bump when Mom greeted me with a big wet birthday kiss. I didn’t even wipe it off.

I wolfed down my breakfast and was sent out the door with chocolate frosted cupcakes to share with my classmates. I knew the day would drag, since I could only think about the gift that was awaiting me after school.

I arrived at school and just knew that I would be flooded with birthday wishes. I wasn’t disappointed. I handed out cupcakes, deciding who would get which one. My best friends and I sat at our table, giggling and telling stories, like all little girls do.

Suddenly, over the loud speaker came a long message. I didn’t understand, nor did any other student in the building.

The only word I got out of it was ‘terrorism.’ It echoed in my head. My teacher knelt down next to her desk with her head in her hands. She looked horrified. Twenty-six little faces stared up at her, innocent and na├»ve.

“What about my cupcakes?” I remember thinking. “What about my birthday?”

September 11th no longer seemed like my birthday. The day past, but to be perfectly truthful, I feel like my memory stopped recording that day. Where once I remembered every intricate detail, I now only remember bits and pieces of the day.

At the end of our school day, we went into our walking lines like usual, but the hallways possessed a silent lull. I went home and called my friend.

I asked her if she knew what was going on. That word ‘terrorism’ kept coming up. I had never heard the word and I still didn’t understand what it meant.

It was breaking news everywhere for hours. The fact that it was my birthday totally slipped my mind.

My mother got home and sat my sister and I down to tell us about the tragedy. She told us “terrorists” (“That word again”, I thought) “attacked two of our Country’s most storied landmarks”.

I remember her saying, “Our Country was never going to be the same”.

When she told me that these people had killed thousands of innocent Americans, I seemed to blank out. I was horrified. Up to this point in my life, I had only thought about my life and the lives of my friends and family.

This event changed the way my thoughts would leave my brain.

Forever.

My birthday was the furthest thing from my mind.

These people murdered in cold blood, people just like me. People who left for school and work with dreams, and goals and futures.

Just like me.

A lump formed in my throat. I tried to swallow it, but it seemed to choke me.

Suddenly, “Samantha” was not the first thing on my mind.

Suddenly, I felt small and insignificant.

This tragedy caused me to shift my thoughts from me to imagining all of the families who had lost someone. I was thinking of how lucky my family was. How lucky I was. I had never thought about the safety of our country before.

This kind of thing didn’t happen where we live. It only happens in other parts of the world.

My backyard? Not a war zone. My backyard was a playground.

I got Samantha that day, but her face looked different to me.

She didn’t smile the same way that she did before. She still had my brown hair and my hazel eyes, but she seemed to have lost the gleam in her eyes.

The night before my birthday I thought I knew every facial expression that Samantha had.

She always smiled. Now she seemed puzzled. Concerned.

She seemed to have lost her innocence.

Just like me.

I am 18 today and my birthday is still as special to me as it has ever been.

September 11th is still my birthday, but now the day doesn’t belong to just me, like it used to.

Now my birthday belongs to the rest of the world, too. JC

Opening note from Todd Civin

There are some days, that sports need to take a back seat to life.

Today is one of those days.

I suspect you’ll remember it far longer than you’d remember another story about another Sox loss on the way to the playoffs or another name being leaked from the list of users and abusers anyhow.

Those are stories we often try to forget. The following is one I hope we never do.

I don’t get credit for this story other than that I was partially responsible for bringing it’s writer into the world, 18 years ago today. Much like hanging their finger paintings on the refrigerator, I still love to show off the work of my kids.

I like to think that in everything they produce a little drop of me helped to produce it. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, unless it’s up to no good. Then it doesn’t fall far from her Mom’s tree..

Jules wrote this as her essay to get into UMass Boston. She not only succeeded at getting in, but captured the heart of many with the following essay. Happy Birthday, dear Julia…I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Love Daddy

Todd Civin is a freelance writer who writes for The Bleacher Report and Seamheads. He is also a supporter of, “A Glove of Their Own” the award winning children’s story that teaches paying it forward through baseball. Please visit the site at www.agloveoftheirown.com and purchase under today’s donor code USC247 USA CARES as $3.00 from each sale will go towards that wonderful charity.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"A Glove of Their Own" Pays It Forward to Honor It's Central Jersey Home

The A Glove of Their Own story is a simple one. It's all about giving and sharing and family and paying it forward. It's about the wholesome family values that we strive for each and every day and remain tested, yet unspoiled, because we simply refuse to let them slip from our grasp.

The book, a children's story, has multiplied into a movement of giving that is being adopted across the nation by players, coaches, organizations, and parents to not only provide giving, but to teach giving.

Metaphorically, A Glove of Their Own is the pebble that is tossed into the middle of a quiet pond and the movement is the ripples that flow out from the submerged stone. Long after the pebble has disappeared from view, the ripples continue to spread from the epicenter. The book is the pebble. The ripples are the movement of giving.

Bob Salomon, the co-creator and driving force behind A Glove of Their Own tossed that rock a year ago when he became involved with three New Jersey mothers who collaborated to write A Glove of Their Own. He is the spirit behind the movement that is capturing the heart of the nation...one glove at a time.

"I'm the Little League coach with a vision," said the nine-year resident of Howell, NJ a seashore New Jersey community that will be celebrating it's 37th Howell Day on Sept. 26.

"From the moment I read the words of the book I knew it was bigger than just the book. I knew it could become a centerpiece for families to rally around, for schools and groups and entire towns to rally around to promote sharing and giving and family. That's why I'm so excited that the book has been invited to be a part of Howell Day."

Salomon and author Keri Conkling will be signing copies of A Glove of Their Own throughout the afternoon, and in the spirit of the book will be giving $3.00 per sale to the Howell Parks and Recreation Department who is putting on the event.

"Howell Day has been happening long before my family and I moved to town," explained Salomon, "but what it brings to the town is the same type of spirit that our book brings. Families look forward to Howell Day all year long. Hopefully our book can give back to an organization that gives our town so much."

Howell Day will be held on Sept. 26 from noon to 6:00 PM at Oak Glenn Park in Howell, NJ and is billed as a day long event filled with family fun.

The day includes free carnival rides, pony rides, entertainment, food, and arts and crafts for children of all ages. Howell Day has become an event that is synonymous with Howell and family entertainment.

"I am truly honored that my town and the recreation department supports the book and has invited me and the authors to be part of this wonderful event. We have done several events, but I am most excited about Howell Day."

"Davide (pronounced Dav-e-day) and the entire Parks and Recreation Department does a fantastic job every day of the year. His heart is in the right place all the time, but we see the culmination of a year long effort on Howell Day. The entire town comes to life the second the gates open."

"Howell is a very close knit town and it deserves a day in it's honor. I can't think of a better man than Davide to be the spirit behind this tremendous day honoring Howell."

Davide Fuoco is in his second year as director of the Howell Parks and Recreation department and is equally excited about this annual event.

"We expect a crowd of about 10-15,000 people from, not only Howell, but from most of the central Jersey area."

"There will be free carnival rides, pony rides, and arts & crafts for the children," explained Fuoco. "Plus, musical entertainment, skydivers, K-9 demonstrations, and several vendors promoting their companies with lots of giveaways, great food, and lots of great family fun!"

For those who have been to Howell Day before there is reason to come again this year as Fuoco and his team has brought in several new rides for the children, new musical groups and performers and the Howell H.S. Band.

"I am even trying to incorporate a Pro Wrestling Show, a clown and a western show!"

"We will also have all-day radio broadcasts by 100.1 WJRZ from noon to 3 p.m. featuring classic hits from the 1960s and 1970s, with WRAT 95.9 taking over the sounds from 3 to 6 p.m. and playing the latest rock tunes."

"Plus we'll have the music of Magic Moments from 2-3:30 and Rocksplosion from 4-5:30."

"There is literally something for everyone at Howell Day and we are thrilled to have The team of A Glove of Their Own joining us for the event,"added Fuoco.

"I love the book, enjoyed the pictures and most importantly appreciate the message. Working with Coach Bob has been a pleasure as well. I admire his enthusiasm and passion for the book and I share his passion for the Howell Community."

And the ripples spread a little further thanks to a couple of Howell's finest who think pretty highly of their picturesque New Jersey town. Paying it Forward together to honor the town in which they live.



Todd Civin is a freelance writer for Bleacher Report, Sports Then and Now, and Seamheads. He can be reached at toddcivin1@aim.com for hire or comments.
He is a supporter of A Glove of Their Own, the award-winning children's story that teaches sharing through baseball.

Please visit the site and purchase the book under today's donor code HPR121, Howell Parks and Recreation Department, as $3.00 from each book sale will be donated to that wonderful group, while an additional .30 per book to purchase sporting equipment for underprivileged children.