NAPPANEE – NorthWood once again had a banner season on the baseball diamond. A pair of titles, several personal milestones. But it’s work off the field may be what is remembered most of the 2018 baseball campaign.
Success will be in the eye of the beholder when objectifying the 2018 NorthWood baseball season. The team tied Plymouth for the Northern Lakes Conference championship, beating Goshen on the final day of the conference season to earn a share. It came back and swept Angola, Tippecanoe Valley and Lakeland at the Lakeland Sectional, but ended short of its team goal in losing to Jay County at the Bellmont Regional.
While those results will stick with the Panthers in historical terms, the numbers that came from the team in the money raised for the Jason Motte Foundation and K Cancer initiatives were far more important.
The team used the foundation to help create a team unity project, working in the memory of Lauren Warren, sister-in-law to Panther senior baseball players Hunter and Sawyer Warren. Her fight with mesothelioma ended in February, but her spirit lived on through her brothers-in-law, and NorthWood head coach AJ Risedorph. Using JMF as its platform, the team set out in March to raise as much money as it could, and create the awareness that so many other foundations and organizations also look to provide in their missions.
What caught Risedorph off guard was the overwhelming amount of support the team would find, both in monetary sums and in physical support.
“I am just blown away by the support of everyone in the community and that of people in the surrounding area,” Risedorph said Thursday morning. “Bring those like yourself who are willing to share our story and mission, this would not have been possible without your support. The programs like Elkhart Memorial and South Bend Saint Joe that help us reach such an amazing total will always have our respect and appreciation.”
The team had raised over $7,500 when it hosted the K Cancer game with Memorial in mid-May, just a mere two months since taking up the JMF fundraising campaign. The amount of support Risedorph was getting from opposing teams – Memorial pitched in over $200, South Bend St. Joe raised over $800 and that game wasn’t even played because of rain – certainly helped motivate for a strong finish. At season’s end, the NorthWood baseball program had raised a total of $11,488,41, all sent to JMF as it came in.
Risedorph also noted during the season individual contributors were offering a $1 per NorthWood hit and a $1 per NorthWood pitching strikeout. Given the team finished with 243 hits and 179 strikeouts, just that one person was on the hook for $422. Combine that with the hundreds of other various forms of donations, and on-field success was put into a relative perspective.
“I sent a message that our season had concluded and we are in the process of collecting our pledges,” noted Risedorph. “I’m pretty certain that my contact at the Jason Motte Foundation was pretty amazed at our estimated final total. They had only been receiving flat donations up until this week. They hadn’t seen the amounts that were pledged per hit or strike out.
“We definitely have a number of families where cancer has hit a little too close to home. It’s a disease that unfortunately isn’t going away. I feel that it is something we can continue to do with the support of our players and their families.”