The Holy Trinity Tigers and Cocoa Beach Minutemen got together for an afternoon of baseball on Saturday.
But this was about so much more than baseball.
As part of a charity drive that was the brainchild of Tigers baseball coach Tom Kelce, the two games played helped raise money for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
After a JV game was played, Cocoa Beach won the varsity contest 7-3, but at least on this day, the important numbers weren’t really reflected on the scoreboard.
“I’ve always wanted to do something for charity,” Kelce said. “… We haven’t done it the last couple of years because of Covid, obviously. This year, I sat down with (Holy Trinity Athletic Director James) Phillips.
“When I was probably 10 or 11-year-old, my aunt took me to the hospital. We were visiting somebody. I saw this table over there and a lady with brochures. I went over and grabbed one.”
At the time, Kelce didn’t understand what the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was about until his aunt explained it to him. The name Jude always stuck with him because his aunt’s name is Judy, and when he became an adult, he began making donations of his own.
Phillips jumped on board right away once Kelce told him of his desire to do something charitable through the school’s baseball program. It wasn’t long after that the idea had the support of assistant athletic director and legendary former Merritt Island baseball coach Chuck Goldfarb as well as former Boston Red Sox star Tim Wakefield among others.
“It kind of escalated pretty quick and it turned out real well,” Kelce said.
The game drew the biggest turnout the Tigers have seen in a long time. Fans were asked to scan a QR code to make a donation and there was also a website linked to St. Jude where fans could help support the organization.
According to its website, St. Jude’s mission is to, “advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment.”
Immediately after the game, Kelce didn’t know how much in total had been donated. However, he said $3,500 had been given before the varsity teams took the field.
Additionally, the fifth-grade class at Holy Trinity’s lower school – where Jessica Kelce is the Head of School – wanted to raise money for charity. The class raised $1,400 through a bake sale and an out-of-uniform school day.
Two weeks ago, Holy Trinity’s baseball program held a home run derby and raised $3,100 for Wakefield’s foundation.
Wakefield threw out the first pitch on Saturday.
Fans were not charged to enter the game and there was free food and drinks.
Cocoa Beach and head coach Brandon Winn, who were quick to join in and take part in Saturday’s games, helped support the cause by getting the word out to Minutemen parents.
The fans were treated to an entertaining game that saw Cocoa Beach (6-5) jump out to a 4-0 lead in the third inning. The Tigers would make it 4-1 in the bottom of the inning when Sal Carlson reached on an error that scored Roman Carlson.
A two-run single by Kaden Jones would make it a 5-3 game after four, but the Minutemen squashed any hope of a Holy Trinity comeback by scoring twice more in the top of the seventh.
Cole Hewatt had two of Holy Trinity’s four hits. Jones and Roman Carlson had the other two.
A quartet of Tiger pitchers combined to strikeout 10, but walk 12.
“We played OK,” Kelce said. “A little silent with the bats today. We made a couple of mistakes … but our guys come out and they fight. We were down four or five runs (Friday night against Space Coast) and we came right back and tied it up. Good things happen like that.
“I’m proud of these guys. They don’t give up. They don’t stop. They continue to play.”
Earlier in the week, the Tigers (5-10) defeated Cornerstone Charter Academy, setting a school record by scoring 16 runs in the first inning on the way to a 21-16 victory.
Those two teams are scheduled to meet again on Monday, this time in Belle Isle.
While the final donation numbers weren’t in yet, the game had already exceeded Kelce’s expectations and he was grateful to all of the people who came together to help make it happen.
“It was a lot of work,” Kelce said. “And I think it paid off. I’m excited to see how the donations turned out today.”