Ridgefielder's project a hit with Bridgeport Little League
As part of the Bridgeport North End Little League’s Opening Day ceremonies this weekend, Joe Ganim is throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
No surprise there: Ganim is Bridgeport’s mayor, and elected officials routinely throw first pitches.
Catching Ganim’s toss on Sunday will be Andrew Filippelli. At 14, he is too old for Little League. He also lives in Ridgefield.
But Filippelli is no Opening Day celebration crasher. He is an invited and distinguished guest — someone who is helping younger players he has not yet met.
A baseball fanatic — he played on a Ridgefield 13-under travel team last year after moving with his family from New Jersey in late 2015 — Filippelli incorporated his passion for the sport into a social studies project at East Ridge Middle School. The result is a local and online campaign that is busy raising money for the Bridgeport North End Little League, with a corresponding equipment drive that begins today.
“Baseball is something I love and has taught me a lot,” he said. “If I can help young players in the Bridgeport League have some new equipment or maybe a new uniform, that will make them love the game even more.”
Filippelli’s GoFundMe page, entitled Donations for the Diamond, has so far raised more than $1,000 for the North End Little League. In addition, a drive to collect gently-used baseball equipment is taking place throughout April — donations can be dropped off at Tiger Sports on Catoonah Street.
“This project is definitely bigger than I expected when I submitted the service topic to my teacher,” said Andrew. “I didn’t really expect to be invited to their Opening Day. People have been very generous in helping me make it a bigger campaign.”
“Andrew has played baseball since he was seven years old,” said his dad, David. “He’s always been a quiet leader on the field and a great teammate. We’re proud of him for what he’s accomplished as a player for sure but this is by far the most impactful thing he has done as a baseball kid.”
After developing the idea for his service project, Andrew contacted a board member for the Bridgeport North End Little League.
“She said that they have a really great league but are looking for money to help fund coaching clinics and improve their concession stand, which brings in money for the league,” said Andrew. “Some families cannot afford the fees to play, also. So that’s why I am raising money to bring to them on Saturday.”
The impetus behind the equipment collection drive is apparent on Andrew’s GoFundMe page.
“A huge part of Little League baseball is feeling like a major leaguer when you play,” he wrote. “I have never had to do without new equipment, and my teams always have had a bucket of baseballs and new uniforms. I have been very fortunate that way.
“Too many young players love the game just as much as I do, but are not as fortunate,” continued Andrew. “Their community may not have the means to support their program in the same way, even though I know they want to help the kids.”
“Even as he gets older, I can still see how special it is for him to put on a new uniform, or get a new bat for the season,” said Andrew’s dad. “That never really fades. He’s delivering that joy to other players on Saturday, and that’s pretty cool.”