Despite his lung-crippling disease, Aaron Rossman hit the winning run in the Big Bat Bopper Baseball Olympic event when he was a junior in high school. It’s no wonder his friends are fundraising with that sport to honor Rossman who passed away in November at age 22.
Big Bat Bopper Baseball, a game that combines kickball, cricket and baseball, is believed to have been invented by PMHS physical education teachers back in 2004. Since the sport is a crowd favorite among Pelham students, and one Rossman particularly loved, his close friends decided to put together a tournament next month to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis research. To date, the organizers have collected $11,263.
“The charm of this event is that it’s really student driven,” remarked Michael Recca, who was best friends with Rossman since kindergarten and is a lead organizer. “There are a lot of fundraisers in town, but this is just us.”
About 30 of Rossman's friends got together back in March to devise a fundraising plan. Once the sport was chosen, the crew divided up the tasks and each donated money to ensure that all the funds will go directly to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Purchase chapter.
“The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is paying nothing, and that’s good because we want to maintain the identity of the event,” Recca said.
Another part of the event’s identity is making sure that Rossman’s life, and the vivacious way he led it, is honored on June 12. Though Rossman had been served a grim sentence at an early age, he didn’t let the disease hold him back.
“He was always playing sports with us,” Recca shared. “He was a very good athlete.”
Upon graduating from PMHS in 2006, Rossman spent a year volunteering and taking classes in Israel on the Young Judea Year Course program, before heading off to the University of Hartford for a year. He then transferred to Pace University, where he studied up until just months before he died.
The outpouring of support and participation for the tournament are testimony to just how many people value the way Rossman fought to maximize the time he had here.
Recca anticipates that about 300 players will step up to bat at the event, and a slew of vendors have already helped out with the food and auction items. Wolf's Lane Deli is offering up the grub, and Pepsi is donating the drinks. Participants will also be able to bid on Fairway gift cards, Jets and Yankee tickets and clothing from a local store, among other items.
While Recca couldn’t speculate on how Rossman would react to his friends pulling off such a feat, he was able to easily point to what naturally drew so many people to Rossman.
“He was the life of a party,” Recca offered. “He did not let CF define him.”
The Big Bat Bopper Tournament takes place on June 12 at 9 a.m. in the PMHS and PMS gymnasiums. Registration fee: $15. To sign up for the tournament, email Michael Recca at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, you can make a donation to the cause here.