For Mark Ungania, it’s as important for the Redmen youth baseball travel teams players to learn life lessons as it is for them to grasp hitting and running the bases.
“It’s based and grounded in baseball,” said Ungania, a Mineola resident who is president of Redmen Baseball. “There’s more to baseball than just playing the sport. There’s a comraderie and the sense of helping others. We think you’re better grounded if they learn those values.”
The Redmen comprise more than 60 players aged eight through 13 years old from New Hyde Park, Mineola, Herricks and Searingtown on the five teams based in New Hyde Park and Williston Park. Earlier this month, their coaches brought many of them to the AHRC Nassau School in Brookville for developmentally disabled children.
The occasion was the Field Day at AHRC with 35 Redmen players and as many parents attending from late morning until early afternoon on June 1.
Ungania said they set up four different activities for school for the mentally challenged AHRC kids, including kickball, soccer, basketball and the playground area.
Ungania and the other Redmen coaches had sent their players and the players’ parents e-mails and spoke to them when they all arrived at the Brookville school. They emphasized being flexible and patient with the kids and Ungania said the resulting interaction was all that he hoped it would be.
“Our kids mingled with them and taught them how to throw and kick,” Ungania said. “Overall the kids were fantastic. They were engaging with the students, helpful, flexible, and patient.”
The kids and adults all had lunch, donated by Parkway Delicatessen in Albertson.
Ungania’s wife, Michele, who directs the Redmen charity events, found the AHRC event and made arrangements with them for the Redmen to participate.
During the Christmas season, Ungania said the Redmen “adopted” a family at the Ronald McDonald house, made Rice Krispie treats and gave them presents. Ungania said he sees the kids’ participation in doing things for others fostering relationships between them that are stronger than the mutual support they express as teammates.
“They form a bond and it’s interesting to see how fast that bond develops,” he said.
The youngest Redmen, a group of 8-year-olds, are currently conducting a charity drive for the Winthrop University pediatric cancer center, collecting bandaids and lollipops for pediatric cancer patients. It’s a community service play the Redmen ran two years ago, when Ungania’s son, Nicholas helped in the effort. The lollipops help counteract the after-effect of dry mouth from chemo therapy and the cartoon character bandaids the Redmen collect lift the young patients’ spirits.
“The kids really enjoy character bandaids and lollipops,” Ungania. “They just never have enough lollipops.”
When they’re not helping others, the Redmen stay busy on the ballfield. Ungania said the five travel teams, formed two years ago, play virtual year-round seasons in the spring, summer and fall under the banner of the National Junior Baseball League.
“We’re in local Long Island tournaments. We travel all over the island,” Ungania said.
The kids also go on baseball-related field trips and trips not related to baseball. Ungania said the teams aren’t connected to local Little League organizations “because we can keep teams together and teach them.”