Pavel Dzemianok / For the Boston Globe
With three freshmen on his squad this year, East Boston baseball coach Phil Brangiforte is starting to have more and more players on his team that werent around for his wifes bout with colon cancer four years ago.
They dont really know the meaning behind it and stuff but they know we wear our blue shirts and stuff, Brangiforte said of this weekend's fourth annual Strike Out Colon Cancer tournament at East Boston Stadium.
They have been good about it. Everybody gets up for that tournament they want to win it and stuff. We do have some players who played in it. They know what the meaning is. They hear that cancer word and its scary for everybody.
Shortly after delivering their fifth child four years ago, Brangifortes wife, Carrie, was diagnosed with colon cancer and survived emergency surgery at Boston Medical Center. Brangifortes mother-in-law, Jacki Anthony the wife of East Boston hockey coach Robert Anthony was also treated at BMC last year when her breast cancer that was in remission for 11 years spread to her bones.
The tournament has already raised more than $20,000 for colon cancer research at Boston Medical Center. The family also runs the Deep Freeze hockey tournament every year to benefit breast cancer.
BMC saved her life so I figured this is the way to go, they helped us so were trying to help them, Brangiforte said during a post-game interview last month. Its definitely [bittersweet]. It always brings up memories. Its good to see she is healthy and they did a good job. Dr. [James] Petros from BMC is a blessing.
The two-day tournament starts Saturday and besides, East Boston, will feature Madison Park, Newton South and Malden. Madison Park, the first city league team besides East Boston to participate in the tournament, will kick things off against the Jets at noon on Saturday.
Its going to be a lot of fun and we look forward to going up against Madison Park, Brangiforte said.
But Brangiforte knows the weekend is about so much more than baseball. His family and his team work nonstop selling hotdogs and hamburgers and raffle tickets to raise funds for cancer research. They also hold a silent auction.
Were here from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Brangiforte said. My team, we play the first game, the 12 oclock game, and were getting ready for a game but all those kids stay afterwards and they are helping out afterwards and they are cleaning up at the end.
East Boston High Principal, Mike Rubin, said the school rallies around the baseball and hockey tournaments each year.
It supports our mission in our school, Rubin said of the tournament. I want our student body to always be giving back and help those less fortunate than them. We do a lot of that at East Boston. Its important for us to realize theres people out there in the world that need help and if you are blessed you should try to help those less fortunate.
Rubin said he especially looks forward to the baseball tournament because its his tradition to throw out the opening pitch with Mayor Thomas Menino.
I do, my schedule is very busy but I make sure Im at the the breast cancer hockey fundraiser and Im always at this one as well, Rubin said.
Although it chokes him up, Brangiforte said hes not shy about telling his familys story to his new players.
I tell them what its all about and a lot of them know and they see it, he said. I want them to know Hey, were not just raising money. But I want them to know why we are raising money. But its tough. would I ever had that tournament like that if my wife didnt have colon cancer? Probably not because you dont do things unless it affects you.
But Brangiforte said it makes his players take both life and baseball more seriously.
"I think it definitely does open them up," he said. "Those games, its more about those kids caring. Which they do, they are here.