Strike Out Autism Baseball Challenge Coming Saturday at Central Reg.
When his son was diagnosed with autism in 2010, Jerry Frulio was not going to sit back and be a passive parent.
The former head baseball coach at Central and St. Rose has been heavily involved in the cause of autism awareness for the past three years and now has helped organize the inaugural “Strike Out Autism Baseball Challenge” on Saturday at Central Regional and Veterans Park in Bayville.
Starting at 11:30 a.m., there will be a pair of high school games in addition to different food vendors, bouncy houses, pony rides, face-painting and a petting zoo for kids, all in the name of raising money for autism awareness. There is no admission, and donations can be made on site while all the profits from the vendors will be split between the national organization Autism Speaks and the local organization Parents of Autistic Children based in Brick Township.
“(An autism diagnosis) is something that is difficult to deal with as a parent,’’ Frulio said. “That’s why we weren’t going to just sit back. We’re not really those kinds of people, and a large part of it is helping people understand. If you’re on line at Shop Rite and someone is melting down in front of you, it doesn’t mean he’s a bad kid or they’re bad parents. There could be underlying issues people don’t understand, and people don’t know how to deal with it, and they’re not compassionate.
“This is an event I’ve wanted to do for a couple years now, and (Central baseball coach) John Scran was immediately on board and excited about the whole thing. Obviously our main goals are awareness and fund-raising.’’
Central will take on St. John Vianney in the first game at 11:30 a.m., followed by Red Bank Regional against Toms River South at 2 p.m. Frulio is also hoping to have Brick senior placekicker Anthony Starego throw out the first pitch. Starego, who has autism, made national headlines in the fall when he booted a game-winning field goal in the final seconds of an upset victory over Toms River North.
Frulio hopes to grow the event to more teams and more dates in the coming years to give fans some great baseball to watch while also furthering the cause of autism awareness.
“We have four great baseball programs this year, and I’m excited that they’re part of the inaugural edition of the thing,’’ Frulio said. “We may also look to incorporate softball in the event in the coming years.”
Frulio played and coached at Central and currently is the head of the school’s autism awareness club. His son, Dayton, 5, is on the milder end of the autism spectrum.
“One of every 29 boys in the state of New Jersey is being diagnosed with autism,’’ Frulio said. “The numbers are staggering. While Dayton has had his hang-ups, he definitely has shown unbelievable progress in the 2 ½ years since he’s been diagnosed.’’
The community has also reached out to help with the event, as the law firm of Gilmore & Monahan has donated luxury box tickets to a Lakewood BlueClaws game for a raffle, and Ryan’s Deli in Seaside Heights is donating all the food it is preparing for the event. Another sponsor that has helped make the event possible is Ocean County Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which is run by Central graduate Tom DeBlass, a professional mixed-martial arts fighter who also will be appearing at the event.