Levittown North Baseball Goes to Bat for a Great Cause

LEVITTOWN, N.Y. — Even after the saddest of tragedies, a close-knit community will often come together for the best of causes. And when such instances are the result of a beloved child dying much too young, a reminder of the adage, “It’s not the years in your life, but rather the life in your years,” can be comforting, if only to a small degree.

Although Jack Perlungher’s life was heartbreakingly short, his legacy continues to have a great impact, through the Long Island-based charity named for him — Join A Cause for Kids — and with the assistance of Levittown North Baseball (LNBB), which has proudly served the Levittown School District for more than 50 years.

Sunday was the type of day Jack would have loved. Beautiful sunshine and a fun, family atmosphere as dozens of little leaguers — ranging from 5 to 12 years old, across four different LNBB divisions — played in benefit All-Star games at Thomas Whelan Memorial Field.



Before taking the field, many of the players signed a banner bearing a picture of Jack wearing an A’s cap, representing the team Jack played for during his lone year in LNBB. And they were all clad in uniformed t-shirts, with the same No. 7 that Jack wore, as generously donated by local sponsor Level Solar, which voluntarily approached LNBB asking how it could help.

JACK Banner 2

Dean Karras, an LNBB board member and coach, director of two of LNBB’s player divisions and primary coordinator for Sunday’s benefit, mentioned in a pre-game address to those in attendance, “The reason why we are here today is to honor Jack… who was loved by many in this community.”

Back then, Jack, who played tee-ball on another LNBB field across the street, was known for his huge love of baseball and frequent, warm smile, even during what later on became the most courageous of times after he was diagnosed with a Wilm’s tumor, a rare form of cancer at the age of 4.

Incredibly, Jack very bravely maintained his naturally happy spirit for the next 13 months, right up until the time he succumbed to his disease on Sept. 13, 2010.

“Jack went to the first day of school on a Wednesday and then passed the following Monday,” Jack’s father, Matt Perlungher, recalled with a heavy heart.

But out of heart-wrenching calamity, the J.A.C.K. charity was born — at the suggestion of family friends, Kevin Glenn and Patty Atchinson — to raise money for other young children and their families facing financial hardship due to serious illness or personal tragedy.

Involving J.A.C.K. with LNBB this year was a natural fit.

“We could have really went in a few different directions with it, but for one of our own, it really affected the community,” Karras said. “Everyone knew about Jack. It was a slam dunk. Everybody bought into it.”

As lovable as Jack was, it was easy for everyone to appropriately honor his memory by enthusiastically going above and beyond with helping others in need.

“Every single thing that happens is because of [Jack’s] inspiration,” Matt Perlungher said. “The one positive thing, if you want to call it that, to come out of the almost five years that [Jack’s] been gone, is he inspires people. People just continue to do, and it’s selfless. It’s very admirable and it’s a trait you don’t see with a lot of people. When events like this come around, and people [contribute], it hits you in the heart.”

Standing with a microphone near home plate, Matt Perlungher told the crowd, “It’s been almost five years since Jack passed away, and the support continues. It never wavers.”


Reflecting later on, he added, “Year after year, as time goes by, you seem to think it’ll kind of get quiet and it’ll lose a little of its momentum, and [then] people step up, and an event like this takes place. It was so above and beyond what I thought it was going to be today. [I was] much more emotional than I thought I was going to be.

“They did an absolutely incredible job putting this together. The support that they got from the different companies; and of course the kids. Without the kids, none of this is possible. All the parents and coaches and the Levittown North Baseball club, their board of directors, [were] just amazing, absolutely amazing.”

As Jack’s father showed his appreciation, Karras described the contributions of Matt Perlungher, among several others.


“This is really a collective effort,” said Karras, who most often addressed the crowd between games. “Jack’s father came down to a board meeting and it was pretty much a no-brainer. He told us about the charity, what they do, and the fact that Jack played for Levittown North, it really hit home for a lot of us. We were all on board in no time.

“We’re proud and honored to sponsor this event in [Jack’s] name… [from] all the board members to all the coaches, everybody pitched in. This was in no way shape or form a one-man show. I guess I’m just kind of holding the mic at certain points, but this was really a collective effort on everybody’s part.”

One such contributor was CBS Sports Radio anchor, WFAN.com blogger and New York Cosmos public address announcer Peter Schwartz, who used his extensive sports media connections to secure support from many of the same teams and organizations which helped LNBB in a similar event last year.

“All I did was have the right names,” Schwartz said humbly. “We helped request items from the local sports teams and the local businesses. All of us did, anybody that volunteered, everybody chipped in. But obviously, working in sports media, I had a few contacts in the sports area from last year. They were more than gracious to donate again.”

That included many of the area’s local professional teams.

Schwartz, who further helped out by selling raffle tickets during the games, said, “The Islanders… are very helpful in the community, the Knicks, Jets, Giants… the Cosmos, the Red Bulls… when it comes to something like this, generally, the community businesses all come together. That part is easy. It’s a lot of hard work, but once the day comes, everything kind of takes care of itself.”

On an unseasonably summer-like spring day, Sunday’s event, Schwartz noted, was the second annual benefit of its kind run by LNBB, which last year, hosted two games and raised more than $3,000 for the New York chapter of Hope and Heroes, in honor of Lorenzo Fernandez, another young, local boy who was stricken with cancer and sadly passed away.

Starting a couple of hours after sunrise, and stretching into the early evening, Whelan Field hosted twice as many games on Sunday as it did last year, with Jack’s sister Emma throwing ceremonial first pitches before each of the first two contests.

emma first pitch

Others who did the same included Karras’ older son, 9-year-old James, who unfortunately couldn’t play, with his broken right arm in a cast. Still, James threw out a pitch to his father with his left arm before joining Schwartz for some analyst work as Schwartz called play-by-play for the last game of the day, one that included Schwartz’s son Bradley, a five-year veteran of the LNBB system.

“I thought it would be appropriate if James threw out a pitch to his Dad, who has been instrumental in putting this [event] together,” Schwartz told the crowd.

Later on, Schwartz amused the crowd and further lifted everyone’s mood when announcing the starting lineups.

“I hope I pronounce this correctly — Bradley Schwartz,” he joked.

During the bottom of the first inning, Schwartz relayed a message to his son over the public address system, telling him, “Bradley, stay on the base please? I don’t know what to say about that… bringing shame to our family.”

Prior to the game, Schwartz surprised his son by throwing out the first pitch to him.


While that was heartwarming in itself, it followed an earlier moment in the day, when Matt Perlungher, in the same manner, honored 12-year-old Hank Chase, a leukemia survivor, and the son of Debbie Chase, LNBB’s Executive Secretary, who also assisted with game concessions.

“One of the first people my son met at the cancer center was Hank Chase,” Matt Perlungher told the crowd before the third game of the day. “[They] became very close… it would be my honor if Hank would throw out the first pitch for this game.”

Hank gladly obliged and later put his team up, 3-2, with a clutch, two-run double in the bottom of the third inning, a couple weeks after smacking a monster home run which cleared the scoreboard sitting high above the left-centerfield fence at Whelan Field.


On the hit, Hank, who bonded with Jack when the two were mutually undergoing treatment at the same cancer center, said, “It just means a lot because… I used to love Jack. Jack used to be like my brother. So it was really nice to get a hit for Jack.”

The only disappointing part about the moment was that Hank’s double should have dramatically won the game, which was originally scheduled for three innings before a final inning was added and Hank’s team eventually lost.

“Yeah, it was supposed to be a walk-off,” Hank said with a slight grin.

Today, Hank has an even greater reason to smile. He has thankfully been off treatment for the past 4½ years and is only another six months away from receiving a clean bill of health moving forward.

Fittingly, it was Hank’s mother who was instrumental in uniting J.A.C.K and LNBB.

“Through Debbie Chase, that’s how we found out about the charity,” Karras said.

As a result of that link and the dedication of so many others, the relationship between J.A.C.K. and LNBB will likely become as strong as the one shared by Jack and Hank, who at the cancer center, became inseparable friends, united by a common love of baseball.

And as Jack lives on through the charity which now bears his name, everyone involved with baseball in North Levittown will always maintain the same kind of love for Jack.

For more information on the J.A.C.K. charity, including how you or someone you know can volunteer or donate funds, visit www.jackcharity.org.

team JACK

All photos by Jon Wagner (New York Sports Day)








About the Author

Jon Wagner

Jon has been a credentialed writer with New York Sports Day since 2009, primarily covering the New York Knicks and Hofstra men's basketball. He has also occasionally covered other college basketball and New York's pro teams including the Mets, Giants, Jets, Islanders, Rangers and Cosmos (including their three most recent championship seasons). Jon is former Yahoo Sports contributor who previously covered various sports for the Queens Ledger. He's a proud alum of Hofstra University and the Connecticut School of Broadcasting (which he attended on a full scholarship). He remains convinced to this day that John Starks would have won the Knicks a championship in 1994 had Hakeem Olajuwon not blocked Starks' shot in Game 6 of the 1994 NBA Finals.

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