Baseball team raking its way to spring training

By Judy Henderson - ReminderNews
Windsor Locks - posted Thu., Nov. 17, 2011
Preparing a tarp filled with fall’s bounty are team members Mike Thompson (left foreground) and Mike Gentile (right foreground). Pummeling fellow team member Zack Weigert (in black) with leaves is Tyler DeMarco (left background). Photos by Judy Henderson.
Preparing a tarp filled with fall’s bounty are team members Mike Thompson (left foreground) and Mike Gentile (right foreground). Pummeling fellow team member Zack Weigert (in black) with leaves is Tyler DeMarco (left background). Photos by Judy Henderson.

Parked on Arlington Road in Windsor Locks on a recent Saturday morning was a small armada of cars, pick-ups and trailers, as well as one rather formidable leaf-collection truck. In the backyard of the home at which they were parked was the small army of teens, dads, and volunteers who arrived in those vehicles, wielding rakes, leaf blowers and tarps. Their mission? To clear the property of leaves, and in doing so, to clear the way for all 18 members of the Windsor Locks High School varsity baseball team and two of their coaches to attend another Spring Training Week at the Bucky Dent Baseball School in Delray Beach, Florida.

According to Al Pepin, whose son Conor plays on the team, the leaf-raking service was first started by WLHS baseball coach Dave Farr several years ago, to help defray the cost of the trip, which comes to about $1,100 per player. Explained Pepin, “Our fall leaf-raking service is just one fundraising effort. We raise money all year long through odd jobs, spaghetti dinners and other kinds of things.”

Apparently, their efforts pay off. “We raise enough to ensure that 75 percent of the kids can go for nothing,” said Pepin, adding that the kids “earn their way” by participating in every fundraiser.

Those with rakes cleared under bushes and behind trees. Sticks and branches were collected and loaded onto trailers. And those with blowers herded the leaves into piles on tarps that were swiftly dispatched to the large vacuum-powered leaf-collection truck, which is donated for use every year by Russo’s Lawn and Landscape, Inc., of Windsor Locks, and accompanied by two of the company’s professionals, who volunteer their time.

“A few years back,” explained Pepin, “Mike Russo saw us all out raking and asked what we were doing. Every year since, he’s loaned us one of his trucks to make the job easier.” The leaf-raking crew had 11 more yards to rake before day’s end, making the leaf-collection truck a crucial time-saver.

Team member Mike Thompson said he did not even mind giving up the chance to sleep in on the weekend. “This puts me one step closer to being in Florida,” he said while raking.

Equally keen about both the leaf-raking and the spring training trip were the fathers. “All the fathers here are either Little League, All-Star, or Legion coaches,” said Eddy Sherman, describing just how genuinely involved so many of them are in their sons’ athletic experience.

Perhaps most enthusiastic of all, however, was Frank, the homeowner whose leaves were disappearing. “It’s great,” he said, looking out at all the action from just inside his front door. “I couldn’t have done this.”

Area residents wishing to take advantage of the WLHS baseball team’s leaf-raking service can call Al Pepin at 860-627-8387 or Mike Barile at 860-627-2885.


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