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School teams are playing for bombing victims, too

Sporting a Boston Strong sign on her helmet, Ashland player Lauren Reardon was up at bat as her team played softball against Bellingham.
Sporting a Boston Strong sign on her helmet, Ashland player Lauren Reardon was up at bat as her team played softball against Bellingham.TStaff Photo/Wendy Maeda

On Boylston Street, Peter Dassoni was standing with his friends from the Ashland High baseball team, waiting for classmate Max Teibel to finish the Boston Marathon, when the joy and anticipation that defined a perfect Patriots Day was broken.

Dassoni felt the ground shake beneath his feet, saw things he wished he had not.

His group had been watching the race from in front of Uno’s Bar and Grill, about halfway between the two explosions that killed three people and wounded more than 170 on Monday.

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Neither Dassoni, a senior catcher, nor his teammates — seniors Mike Lichtenstein, John Ciampaglia, and Nick Cunningham, and junior Joe Byrnes — were injured by the blasts, but the victims and their families remained at the forefront of the teens’ minds as they attempted to return to normal last week.

For them, normalcy meant playing baseball, making it back to the diamond Tuesday for practice and Wednesday for a game against Bellingham. As a tribute to those directly affected by the attack, they wore red shirts under their jerseys. They also wrote “P4B” in marker on their hats, a plea to pray for Boston.

“We thought it would be the right thing to do,” Dassoni said, “to at least do something.”

With their small gestures, the Clockers joined a host of other area teams that decided to offer an on-the-field show of support for the bombing victims and their families, as well as all those who rushed to their aid.

The Ashland softball team placed purple-and-black ribbons in their hair for their game Wednesday, and stuck pieces of tape to their helmets with the words “Boston Strong,” the city’s maxim of resolve, which was trending on Twitter last week and was adopted by the community at large.

Senior captain Ilyza Holman has attended the Marathon every year growing up in Ashland, watching the runners and cheering them on as they passed through the neighborhood.

She believed that, as a representative of a community that is so closely affiliated with the Marathon, the Clockers and their games could serve as a rallying point where those affected by the tragedy will be remembered, and where every pitch and cheer will reaffirm that those who hoped to ruin the hallmarks of everyday life did not succeed.

“We decided on ‘Boston Strong’ because it shows how strong the city is and how well we’ll react to this,” Holman said, “and to show that everyone’s contributing to trying to move on.”

“It’s a close-knit community,” she continued. “It’s so close to home. We know people that were affected by it.

“We know how important it is to show respect for people that have lost their lives or have lost limbs or got injured, and show respect to those first responders. That’s really what matters.”

The “Boston Strong” movement made its way to teenage goodwill ambassadors on the Holliston softball team as well.

On Monday night, through the team’s Facebook page, seniors Lauren Keats and Taylor Dunham organized with teammates to make tie-dyed jerseys in the Marathon’s colors, blue and yellow, and with “Boston Strong” emblazoned on the front. They planned to wear the jerseys Thursday in Holliston’s game against Dedham. They also hoped to pass out blue-and-yellow ribbons to people in the crowd watching the game.

Holliston coach Mark Hernandez got the ball rolling when he asked his players whether they wanted to do anything to remember the victims, and the players ran with it from there.

“I’ve been on Mark’s teams for three years,” Keats said, “and he’s really big on talking to us about how what we’re doing is bigger than softball, it’s more than just a game.

“We play for the community, and that’s what we’re focused on,” she said. “It’s just sort of something we’ve been brought up to know. So whenever there’s anything we can do to honor that, we try to take the reins with it.”

The Hopkinton baseball team will wear gold sweatbands to remember those affected by the bombings. The outfield of the Hillers’ playing field is used by Boston Marathon organizers for the event’s Athletes Village, because of its proximity to the starting line in the center of town.

At Newton North High, the baseball squad talked about finding patches to wear on their jerseys to commemorate April 15, and contemplated setting up a stand at its games so visitors could make donations to support the victims.

Tigers coach Joe Siciliano was the one who broke the news to his players about the explosions when they gathered at their practice field Monday afternoon, not far from the Marathon route on Commonwealth Avenue.

Siciliano’s son was on Boylston Street at the time of the explosions and was not seriously injured, but he was so close to the second blast that it knocked him off his feet.

Though shaken by the news of the attack, Siciliano said, his players have rebounded well, probably in part because of the time they have spent with each other on the field in the days since Monday.

“I think the kids are really resilient,” he explained. “Outwardly it doesn’t look like it, but they have to be thinking about it.

“I think it’s great for them to be here playing, because, deep down in their heart of hearts, they have to be worrying about something.”

In that sense, as much as players help their communities return to normal after such a tragic event, they are helping themselves by playing.

Though it is too soon to turn the page and the day is still too fresh a memory, a game is a welcome respite for them.

“Baseball has always been a nice getaway if anything ever happens,” Ashland High’s Dassoni said. “It’s always nice to just go and play and kind of forget about everything, and just be out there having fun.”

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