buddy ballPHOTO: Buddy-Ball Coach Breanna Jewell at practice on April 20.

UNION BEACH, NJ - Union Beach Mayor Paul Smith threw the ceremonial first pitch on Sunday, May 10 at Union Beach Scholar Park to launch the spring season of Buddy-Ball, a new area program for special needs children.

“We are so grateful to Mayor Smith for his support of Buddy-Ball and the children who participate,” said Lou DiGrigorio, president of Keansburg Babe Ruth, one of the sponsoring authorities of the program.  “We are excited by the start of the season, and hope there will for a lot of support for our players,” DiGrigorio said.

Like its chartering parent organization, Babe Ruth League, Inc., volunteers in the Keansburg Buddy-Ball League believe that every child should have the opportunity to participate in baseball or softball, regardless of their physical or mental ability. 

Also known as Bambino Buddy-Ball in other areas of the country, the Babe Ruth League division was established for player’s ages 5-15 who are physically or mentally challenged.  Rules allow for a “buddy” to help each player swing a bat, round the bases, or catch a ball, to help build confidence and self-esteem within an organized sports setting.

“Keansburg Buddy-Ball is open to anyone who wants to participate,” DiGrigorio said. “Our charter allows us to open the program up to new members beyond Keansburg. We are working with our sister leagues, and have reached out to neighboring towns, including Hazlet and Aberdeen, because Buddy-Ball is not yet available in those municipalities,” he said.

Billy Pachamango, a member of the Board of the Bayshore Booster Club, which sponsors the Keansburg Babe Ruth League, and also charters programs in Middletown, Keansburg, Union Beach, and Keyport, has lifted regular residency restrictions. “We have big hopes that new players and their families will take advantage of this great opportunity for fun and fellowship,” Pachamango said.

“Scholar Park is a great home field for our players” said Director of Buddy-Ball Heather Geiger, “The field is entirely fenced in, and one of our coaches, James Beisser, donated bases that make sound when you step on them. The children really like it, it’s awesome.”

In a recent message to constituents, Mayor Smith noted that Union Beach signed a new three-year agreement for turf maintenance for its little league fields. “It is important that we protect our investment while providing a beautiful and safe playing surface for our children,” Smith wrote.

Sponsors of the first-pitch festivities on May 10 include the Bayshore Booster Club, Jersey Shore BBQ & Full Service Catering, Quickchek and Dunkin’ Donuts who will be providing food and drinks for the children.  Stop and Shop and All State Insurance are regular sponsors for the team, which plays at 11 a.m. each Sunday in Union Beach.

More information about is available at the group’s Facebook page, facebook.com/keansburgbaberuthleague, by email at bbrlpresident @gmail.com, Instagram at bayshorebrl and twitter at @bayshorebrl