LOCKPORT – They played the game for the name on the back of the jersey, even though the varsity score will read Minooka 6 Lockport 2.
But it was much more than just a baseball game Saturday at Ed Flink Field. It was the sixth annual “Strike Out Cancer Day” in honor of the Mark Staehely Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
This year, more than 1,100 people attended and $11,500 was raised, bringing the six-year total to more than $50,000. Both attendance and money raised were the best in the history of the event. All the funds raised will go to the family assistance program of the Staehely Foundation.
“We use this money to help families with whatever they need,” said Sue Staehely, Mark’s mother. “It could be parking at the hospital, food for the families, gas for transportation. It’s not cheap to have someone sick and we are trying to do everything we can to help them.
“Words alone cannot express how grateful we are for this entire day. I wish there was no cancer, but Mark had such a positive attitude and effect on everyone, we want to always continue to help.”
All levels of the Porters and Indians played games on the varsity field starting at 10 a.m. Also included in this event were the softball teams from Lockport, Downers Grove South and Minooka.
In the valued tradition of this event, every player during the day, from the freshman level through varsity, wore a special jersey that had the name of someone they chose who had to deal with cancer.
Lockport (6-6) senior Matt Medina had the name “Grandma” on the back of his jersey.
“My grandma was diagnosed with leukemia a couple of years ago,” Medina said. “She is here tonight and has been my biggest supporter. She really got me into this game, and it’s so special to have her here and play this game for her.”
For the Indians (9-5), you saw many of the jerseys with the name of “Mark Smith” on their back. The tribute is to the former teacher/coach who died from cancer and was loved in the Minooka community.
Senior Grant Olsen had “Shawn Capodice” on his orange jersey.
“She passed away from cancer last year,” Olsen said. “She was a special person to many of my friends and family. This is a tribute to her, and tonight I play this game for her.
More than 100 parents volunteered and local businesses donated food for the all-day event.
Pam Strysik, from the Lockport baseball booster club and main organizer for the event, talked about what the day has come to mean for everyone involved.
“I had the opportunity to talk with Sue Staehely for over an hour on the phone,” Strysik said. “And after talking with Sue and learning so much about Mark, you really understand and appreciate why we do this. It’s a lot of work for everyone involved, but so worth it and so rewarding. We always strive to improve and make this event better every year. Developing the website with all the information on this day has really helped.”
Minooka coach Jeff Petrovic said he thinks this day is special, especially since he had Mark in class.
“Mark was special,” Petrovic said. “He was always so happy and so well-liked by everyone at Minooka. It’s also special because we get to see all of our levels play at one site. That never happens in baseball. It truly is a playoff atmosphere and something the lower levels really never get to experience during the season.
“Lockport does such a great job with this event, and we are so proud to be a part of it. This has created so many great memories over the years for all of our players and coaches.”
Ray Staehely, Mark’s father, talked about how special this entire event has become.
“I can’t say enough about the hundreds of volunteers who make this happen,” Ray Staehely said. “In today’s world it doesn’t happen very often that a fundraising event gets bigger and better every year. This is phenomenal.
“To see the class of these two programs, from the coaches to every level of player and the so many different names that they all play for is unbelievable. I know Mark looks down on this event every year, keeps his scorecard and has that big smile on his face.”