12th Annual Travis Roy Tournament raises over half-million dollars Crusaders find success after 6-year drought

Tournament host Pat O’Connor poses with Konnor Fleming, at right, beyond the wall where the amazing catch was made. O’Connor holds the damaged tomato plant that took one for the team. Photo by Meg Porter

Tournament host Pat O’Connor poses with Konnor Fleming, at right, beyond the wall where the amazing catch was made. O’Connor holds the damaged tomato plant that took one for the team. Photo by Meg Porter

by Bruce Bosely

An amazing play and another staggering fundraising effort highlighted the 12th annual Travis Roy Foundation Vermont WIFFLE Ball Tournament that concluded Sunday at Little Fenway and Little Wrigley in Essex. For the first time, the 24-team backyard WIFFLE ball tourney cracked the half-million dollar mark in a single year, raising a record-shattering $502,150 (as of Aug. 11, 2013) towards the foundation that benefits and creates awareness for people with spinal cord injuries.

“I want to thank the local community that surrounds Little Fenway and Little Wrigley,” said Travis Roy, the former Boston University men’s hockey player whose inspiration and leadership guides the foundation in his name. “It is a very special place, and these great people continue to provide such a great atmosphere that makes the tournament special year after year.

“This fantastic spirit allows us to raise a tremendous amount of money, and I’d like thank everyone who contributed at any level. This generosity allows us to maintain our theme of keeping hope alive for those affected by spinal cord injuries.”

The tourney was held at Pat and Beth O’Connor’s quarter-sized replicas of the two iconic major league parks in their backyard in Essex. In addition to hosting the widely-attended event, the O’Connor’s spearhead the tournament effort.

Excellent weather allowed for larger-than-normal attendance throughout the tournament, and the 24 teams responded with tight (yet friendly) competition as three runs or fewer decided 14 of the 41 games. On Sunday, the Boston Beef, a team from the original tournament in 2002, became the first to capture three tournament titles by holding off the Crusaders, 7-4, in the title game. The Beef were led by veteran pitcher Billy Doyle who struck out 12 in the finale to cap a perfect 6-0 record on the mound.

The upstart Crusaders found success in their sixth tournament appearance, and swept divisional play to earn the top seed in Sunday’s eight-team playoffs. Their pitcher, Dan French, earned Most Valuable Player honors. The Crusaders were bolstered in division play by an incredible game-saving catch by Champlain Valley Union graduate Konnor Fleming, a football defensive back at Macalester College in Minnesota. The play was captured on video by the Pack Network’s Bruce Bosely and made ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 list Saturday night, Aug. 10. In addition to the Top 10, Fleming’s catch was featured on Fox News’s Fox and Friends, OutFront (CNN), NBC Today Show, CBS This Morning, ESPNews SportCenter, plus local stations WCAX Top 3 on 3 and WPTZ. Interested readers can check out the catch on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/user/TRFWiffleball/videos.

The Crusaders’ roster also included JJ Strausser, Tyler Barnes, Steven Hamel, Dan Rowan, Cal Shapiro, Tyler Colvin, Brandon Cruise, Anthony DeToma, Tyler Colton, Rahn Fleming, Ryan Fleming, Evan Michaud, and Michael Michaud. Donations for the 12th Annual Travis Roy Foundation Vermont WIFFLE Ball Tournament will be accepted until Sept.15 at www.trfwiffleball.org.

For more information on the Travis Roy Foundation, log on to www.travisroyfoundation.org

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