It started in 2013 with a couple of high school baseball games designed to raise awareness and maybe a little money for autism.  Over the next couple of years the event grew as more and more Shore Conference teams bought into the idea of teaming up for a common cause.

 

Tomorrow 48 baseball as well as 20 softball teams from the shore and other parts of the state will converge on 12 sites around Ocean and Monmouth County for the 6th Annual Strike Out Autism Challenge.  They will of course want to win their games but are also united in their goal to raise awareness and money to support individuals and their families who struggle with the autism disorder.

 

The idea was the brainchild of former Central Regional baseball coach Jerry Frulio and his wife Jo-Dee whose 10-year old son Dayton was diagnosed with autism as a 2-year old.  Jerry teaches at Central and also directs the Central Regional Autism Awareness Club who runs the event and benefits from the money raised throughout the day.

The last two years have been especially successful and since its inception the Challenge has raised about $50,000 with money used to purchase educational tools to assist autism and special needs programs at schools around the shore.  In addition they donated $10,000 to the Field of Dreams project which will hopefully break ground soon in Toms River and is designed to give children with special needs fields and a park customized for them.

 

While the 24 baseball and 10 softball games will be played at a dozen locations Central Regional and adjacent Veterans Park will be the home base.  There will be food, music, face painting, a bounce house, petting zoo and a raffle with the first prize being a $5,000 vacation voucher.

An added bonus is the 11a.m. game between Central and Toms River East will feature former Golden Eagle and major leaguer Al Leiter throwing out the first pitch.

Ironically Leiter’s son Jack, a junior who has already committed to Vanderbilt University will be pitching for Delbarton in what might be the day’s premier game at 2 p.m. as they face St. Augustine at Toms River South in a matchup of the top two ranked teams in New Jersey.

Just one more reason to check out a game Saturday and help in the fight against autism.  For complete details and the full schedule visit shoresportsnetwork.com.

Strike Out Autism Challenge flier