NY Sports Day

Vaccaro: The Fight Against ALS

“ALS changes people. It sculpts us into someone who understands more deeply, hurts more often, appreciates more quickly, cries more easily, hopes more desperately, loves more openly, and lives more passionately” (Someone diagnosed with ALS)

The other day, I was getting ready to meet with several teachers to discuss the Individualized Educational Plans (IEP) for several elementary school children, As a School Psychologist, this is an important component in developing a collaborative approach to empowering/assisting students/families with their Special Educational needs. As I approached the conference room, I noticed that an outstanding fifth grade teacher was on the phone sobbing. Respectfully, I sat alone on the other side of the room, as we were the only individuals there. When she ended her conversation, she remained visibly upset. I politely handed her a tissue as she began to wipe away the tears. She immediately thanked me for this gesture and then revealed the nature of her telephone call. She tearfully stated, “ Mr. Vaccaro, I just found out that my mom has been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis(ALS) and she is declining fairly quickly. It has started in her mouth area and she has immediate difficulty talking and eating. OMG.. what do I do??? I am here in New York with my family and she lives alone in Delaware.” As I further consoled her, I realized how this disease devastates families. I could not offer solutions at that very moment. I listened and offered her the most  current research information of the disease. I felt helpless and sad, nothing compared to what she was feeling. I then reflected and felt comforted that I had attended an Adelphi Charity Baseball Game/Event organized by Adelphi Baseball Coach Dom Scala only a few days prior. Dom Scala, who is a former bullpen coach of the New York Yankees is entering his 17th year at the helm of the Adelphi University baseball team and is currently the longest-tenured coach in the Panthers athletic Department.

Over the course of nearly two decades at the helm of Adelphi baseball, Scala has amassed over 400 career victories and has led the Panthers to three conference titles between the Northeast-10 and East Coast Conference, and three NCAA berths. In addition, a total of nine players he has coached have been drafted into or signed by teams in Major League Baseball (MLB), along with 12 other signing free agent pro contracts. However, it is charitable efforts that he is most proud of.

“ We all need to give back!!! Baseball has given me an opportunity to help others. This year, I wanted to directly help and assist Dan Colon who is suffering from ALS now”, Scala passionately stated to this writer. Without prompting, Scala went on to share, “ Dan Colon is a man who played baseball his entire life. He is a family man that has been really debilitated from the disease. He can’t afford the medications that are needed to prolong his life nor can he financially provide for his family any longer. It is so damn sad.  There is no cure for this disease. I just wanted to organize this charity game which I do annually and donate 100% of the proceeds to Dan Colon and his family.”

Dan Colon, who attended the game between Adelphi and Molloy and threw out the first pitch, was taken back with emotion. “ I can’t believe the love and support that is here today. Seeing hundreds of people turn out for this charitable game in my honor is a gift from God,” Colon acknowledged. He then mentioned, “then to have Tina Hanely (singer who sang the National Anthem) sing only months after she lost her son to ALS is a remarkable blessing.” “My family and I want to thank Dom Scala so very much. He is an amazing man who has really stepped up efforts to help us.” 

After the Adelphi baseball team mounted a late inning comeback to win the game, they then presented Colon with the game ball. It was at that emotionally-charged moment when Colon addressed the team in a raw, candid moment, “ keep doing the best you possibly can. Keep swinging for the fences and always remember where you came from. Never, ever give up!!!,” Colon inspirationally shared with the entire team. There wasn’t a dry eye to be found.  After everyone had left the ballpark, Colon and Scala shared a private moment in the dugout. It was clear that these two “remarkable” men totally bonded and connected with one another. After this encounter, Scala shared, “ You know life can be so hard and devastating. I am so happy that we were able to raise over $2600 for the Colon family. This was our biggest fundraising charity game to date. I wish we could do more…. God bless the Colon family.”

So if you are either an elementary teacher from Long Island or mother/singer from Brooklyn or a former baseball player/family man from New Jersey, ALS can change your life around in a New York Minute. We all need to keep “swinging for the fences and never, ever give up. Despite the fact that every 90 minutes someone is diagnosed with -or dies from -ALS, we need to all follow the footsteps of Dom Scala and utilize our very own platforms to help others stricken with ALS. We should never underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which has the potential to turn a life around.

It is clear that Dom Scala is man of great integrity and compassion. He has dedicated his life to teaching and nurturing young people on and off the baseball field. He continues to be instrumental in many large university projects, including the building of William J. Bonomo Memorial Field and its clubhouse, which opened in 2018. He holds various honors including  New York Collegiate Athletic Conference Coach of the Year (2005, 2007) and Best College Sports Coach of Long Island (2016). Perhaps, its his New York Yankee pedigree and the direct influence of George M. Steinbrenner that he has been unconditionally motivated to “give back” to others despite any challenges that stand in his way. Dom Scala, thank you for your internal strength and determination to make a difference in the lives of so many. Just ask Dan Colon………………………………………………………………..


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