Mountainsiders Honor Lost Friends at Home Run Derby
Three teens remembered by friends and family at "Angels in the Outfield" derby on the Major League Field
A heaven sent break in the heat wave blew a gentle breeze across the major league field in Mountainside on Sunday, July 22, when a community, shocked and saddened by the loss of three teenagers in just four years, gathered to pay homage to boys who were all once Mountainside Youth Baseball players.
A home run derby, “Angels in the Outfield,” was orchestrated by Matt LaBau, Billy and Kevin Sforza, and Matt Arrigoni. The derby raised money for various foundations to honor the lives of their friends and former teammates: Tom Black, a 2011 graduate of Governor Livingston High School; his brother Timothy, who passed away in 2008; and B.J. Giannone, who passed away in 2011 at the age of 18.
The home run derby was comprised of twelve teams of mostly college-aged boys, many of whom Tim Black, Sr. had coached along with his own two sons. Matt LaBau told Patch that the idea came to him after attending the funeral of Tom Black in June.
“It was an extremely sad time for my family and I, and for everyone in Mountainside. To get my mind off the things that were happening, I thought of better times that I had with Tom. I thought of all the times of playing baseball down on the fields in Mountainside with Tom and Tim and BJ," LaBau explained. "My friends and I started playing a lot of baseball for fun down at the fields so I thought that having a pickup baseball game of some sort would be an incredible opportunity to get Mr. Black and Mr. Giannone down to the fields to remember the great times we had playing baseball with their sons.”
The idea took shape and, after enlisting the help of the boys' parents, news of the event that included a barbecue at the field, spread quickly through Facebook, word of mouth, and a few strategically placed posters around town.
Mr. Black was approached with the idea by the LaBau family, and agreed to pitch to the batters. As the roster grew, D-Bat Softball/Baseball Academy in Mountainside, www.dbat.net, stepped up to the plate and donated the buckets of balls needed for Mr. Black. Mr. Black bravely stood at the mound, wearing his eldest son’s MYB jersey, pitched more than a thousand balls by the end of the derby.
When asked if Angels in the Outfield would be an annual event, Matt said, “With such great turnout like we had, I think it would be a shame not to have it again next year. It brought so much joy to everyone involved."
He added, "More money was raised than had been expected, and it is with great joy that we can donate it to Mountainside Youth Baseball, the Live Like BJ foundation, and the Governor Livingston TREND organization.”
He continued, “It was a chance to remember and a chance to gather as a community and come together in a time of need. A community is a place where all of its members are given a chance to flourish and through this event, I think we showed how strong of a community Mountainside really is.”