The Montgomery Spartans had raised the money needed to play in a tournament of their dreams: the annual 12-and-under at Cooperstown Dreams Park, just six miles from the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Each summer, from the beginning of June through the end of August, about 100 teams from around the country gather to participate in the weekly tournaments in Cooperstown.
The Spartans, whose field is in North Wales, Montgomery County, were all set to drive up and compete, but the COVID-19 pandemic prompted organizers to cancel this year’s tournament.
Not only could the Spartans not play on those finely manicured fields, but they wouldn’t get a chance to visit the Hall of Fame, either. It is a vintage baseball experience, and the team spent years raising the money to go. Next year, when the tournament returns, the current Spartans will be too old to participate.
Instead of sulking — or throwing a pizza party with money from the trip they didn’t take — the Spartans showed their true colors. They donated all the money they had raised, about $9,000, to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s COVID-19 fund.
“We are so thankful for the support of our community, like these young philanthropists, who have helped raise funds and awareness of the programs being led by Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia staff in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Maureen Mason, executive director of events, fund-raising, and community partnerships at CHOP.
The Spartans’ donation was part of $250,000 raised by the children’s hospital’s COVID-19 relief fund, and that $250,000 was matched by a donation from the family of Comcast CFO Mike Cavanaugh.
Spartans coach Jim Bailey said it was the team’s collective idea to donate the money.
“The families all decided together to donate it to charity,” he said.
The players, while disappointed that they couldn’t compete in the tournament, were happy to see the money go to help others.
“It was a good feeling for us to contribute to this cause,” said Ryan Fandozzi, a first and third baseman for the Spartans.
Cubby Bailey, son of the coach and a second baseman, shortstop, third baseman, and pitcher, had a similar reaction about the money going to a good cause.
“I think it is cool,” he said. “It was great to give it to other people who need it.”
The Spartans donated the money in memory of DJ Farrar, a member of the baseball team who died on Jan. 15, 2003, at the age of 13 after a two-year struggle with brain cancer.
In a ceremony on July 22 at their home field, the team donated the check to CHOP. Linda and Doug Farrar, DJ’s parents, were present.
“The unselfish gesture those young men made brought us all to tears,” Linda Farrar said.
Each year, the Spartans host a baseball tournament in DJ’s memory.
“They are keeping my son’s memory alive by doing this and honoring him every year,” his mom said. “For them to do this means the world to us.”
The Spartans are also planning to donate to a few other charities once they get refunded from another tournament that was also canceled due to the pandemic.
“The boys raised money for three years to go to Cooperstown, and for them to want to use the money to help others says a lot about them and their families,” Coach Bailey said. “We are fortunate to live in a community like this.”