A well-deserved pat on the back for the 36 high school baseball teams who participated in the 3rd annual Strike Out Autism Baseball Challenge on Saturday.

Dayton Frulio, 7, threw out the first pitch at the Strike Out Autism Challenge game at Central. Dayton is the son of Challenge director Jerry Frulio. (Ray Richardson)

Doubleheaders took place at nine sites around the shore on what was the nicest day of the year and featured some memorable and moving first pitches thrown out by former Brick High School kicker Anthony Starego, 7-year old Dayton Frulio and 4-year old Connor Poll, all of whom have some form of autism.  I spent some time at the Freehold Township-Central Regional game which was the “anchor site” and included a carnival-like atmosphere at adjacent Veterans Park. 

Event founder and director Jerry Frulio told me they raised nearly $10,000 last year with twelve teams participating and hoped to surpass that with all the additional teams and games with much of the credit for that going to Art Gordon, the president of the Shore Baseball Coaches Association. Proceeds from the sale of tee shirts, donations and more will benefit Autism Speaks and Saturday also helped raise awareness that while much is being done there is a long way to go.

I was home late Saturday afternoon to catch the Blue-White game that marks the end of spring football practice at Penn State.  Some 68,000 came out on a spectacular day for what was simply a scrimmage but I was especially interested because of the “Shore 4” who play for the Nittany Lions. Former Manalapan star receiver Saeed Blacknail caught a game-high 7 passes for 71 yards and fellow sophomore Mike Gesicki from Southern Regional grabbed two passes for 20 yards to help the Blue to a 17-7 win. 

Toms River North grad Chris Gulla, who is fighting for the placekicking job added a 25-yard field goal.  Last but not least redshirt sophomore defensive end Garrett Sickels (Red Bank) was presented with the Jim O’Hora Award as the most improved and dedicated defensive player.

Those four plus incoming recruit Manny Bowen from Barnegat High School are even more reason for me to pay close attention to Penn State at the risk of ticking off my Rutgers friends even more.

I don’t know what the update is for the Route 35 road construction project but I feel for those with businesses who are really being impacted in a negative way. More than ever they deserve the support of their current and former customers so go out of your way a bit to patronize them especially from South Seaside Park to Lavallette.