It's the largest charitable softball tournament held on Long Island. It attracts corporations throughout Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Coca-Cola, Entermanns, the Outback Steakhouse and Poland Springs were just some of the corporations that donated food, beverages, time and teams. It is the Ronald McDonald House "Business Cares for Kids Sports Festival," held on Aug. 22.
Last winter the Ladies Auxiliary of the Columbus Lodge #2143 OSIA made a decision to sponsor the Lodge's softball team. A donation of $1,000 to the Ronald McDonald House and six months later the team was ready to play.
As the team entered Cantiague Park in Hicksville, it witnessed a park that was transformed into McDonald land. With over 2,100 people attending the Sports Festival, the Lodge players looked awe-struck. The quiet poise and confidence they showed at the Easter Seals Softball Classic (just two weeks earlier) seemed to be missing.
Ladies Auxiliary President Pauline Bove was in attendance as the Columbus Lodge Golden Lions took the field. The first inning began with Bro. Lou Roseto being called out on a questionable third strike. "Today wasn't our day," said Ed Bochynski, player/manager of the Lions.
After the Columbus Lodge was retired in order, the team from US Computer scored in the bottom of the first. Not showing any quit, Daron Tripoli led off the Lions' second inning with a walk. After an RBI triple by Anthony Curran, Tom McLoughlin, Bochynski and Maggie Gonzales followed with RBI singles and the game was tied at 4-4.
That was as close as the Columbus Lodge Golden Lions would get. Wildness from the Lion's pitcher (11 walks) sprinkled with three homeruns by US Computer and the Lions fell behind 14-5 after three, and eventually lost 17-7. "We have the talent," said Columbus Lodge's Curran, "we were just missing the swagger."
US Computer went on to defeat teams from FALA Direct Marketing, Poland Springs and McDonald Corporation (8-7 in the Championship game). "If we had to lose, it's nice to lose to the tournament champs," said Columbus Lodge veteran Joe Contorno.
"We lost the game, but we helped raise a lot of money for a good cause," explained Bochynski, "and it gave us a chance to introduce our younger members to volunteerism." The tournaments, raffles, auctions and merchandise sales were expected to have brought in an estimated $40,000 for the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island.
While losing is never easy, experience is invaluable. The first-time participant Columbus Lodge team is young and talented; six players in the lineup were under 25 years of age. They will be back next year and there is no doubt they will be a force to reckon with.