Northeast Times

Washington baseball gathers for home run cause

— Eight years ago, the GW base­ball pro­gram lost one of its own to leuk­emia. Every May, they hon­or his memory.

Wash­ing­ton High School raises money at the an­nu­al Homer­un Derby in hon­or of the lare An­drew Far­rell. The money is used for schol­ar­ships and some is giv­en to Chil­dren’s Hos­pit­al. (photo provided by Jason Welte)

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On April 18, 2004, An­drew Far­rell died at the age of 21 after a long battle with leuk­emia. The George Wash­ing­ton base­ball com­munity, and the world for that mat­ter, lost an in­cred­ible per­son that day.

A mem­ber of the 2001 Wash­ing­ton base­ball team, which com­pleted an un­defeated reg­u­lar sea­son, Far­rell was a free-spir­ited, funny guy who al­ways kept smiles on the faces of his team­mates.

Can­cer was Far­rell’s only en­emy.

Be­fore his own battle with can­cer, he lost his broth­er to the same dis­ease in 1999, and then in 2003, he lost his moth­er to can­cer. Some­how, through all of this, Far­rell re­mained up­beat and pos­it­ive. When he passed away eight years ago, the Wash­ing­ton base­ball fam­ily came to­geth­er in sup­port.

Far­rell was an in­cred­ible kid with a dy­nam­ic per­son­al­ity. Dur­ing one spe­cial Sat­urday each May, he is re­membered dur­ing the an­nu­al An­drew Far­rell Spir­it of Cour­age Home Run Derby.

This past Sat­urday was the eighth an­nu­al Derby at Wash­ing­ton. The event helps raise money for The Chil­dren’s Hos­pit­al of Phil­adelphia; this year’s field saw 70 par­ti­cipants in the Derby and raised more than $2,000. The weath­er was pic­ture per­fect with not a cloud in the sky. Former and cur­rent play­ers, friends, alumni and com­munity mem­bers shagged fly balls, swung for the fences, grabbed a hot dog and re­kindled an old friend­ship or two.

Co-founders of the Derby (and former team­mates of Far­rell’s) Jason Welte and Craig Mul­len were on hand once again, along with state Rep. Brendan Boyle, who spoke at the event. Kath­er­ine Bark­man from The Chil­dren’s Hos­pit­al of Phil­adelphia spoke as well, and a $5,000 grant for the Youth Ad­visor Coun­cil was once again presen­ted to CHOP.

An­oth­er tra­di­tion of the Home Run Derby is the schol­ar­ship award. Every year, Wash­ing­ton High hon­ors a cur­rent play­er who most ex­em­pli­fies An­drew on and off the field with a $2,500 grant known as the An­drew Far­rell Spir­it of Cour­age Schol­ar­ship Award. Pre­vi­ous award win­ners, Ken Radziak (2004), Matt Yankow­itz (2005), Stan Borody­ansky (2008) and Steve Leibovitz (2011), were in at­tend­ance.

This year, the schol­ar­ship was awar­ded to Corey Sharp, a ju­ni­or who swings the bat well for the Eagles. However, Corey won the award be­cause of his per­son­al­ity, not his bat.

“Corey per­son­i­fied An­drew to a T. He was al­ways think­ing about the team first and he is an over­all great kid and team­mate,” said Welte, a former 2002 All-Pub­lic left field­er for Wash­ing­ton.

Corey is the first ju­ni­or to win the award. 

Also in at­tend­ance was An­drew’s older broth­er, TJ, (GW Class of 1999), who nev­er misses the Derby.

“The event was an­oth­er huge suc­cess,” TJ Far­rell said. “It was great catch­ing up with old friends and alumni from both my year and my broth­er’s year, as well as oth­er alumni from the base­ball teams after my broth­er had passed, and meet­ing the new play­ers.”

As for the base­ball part of the event, the home run hit­ting…well, that didn’t go as planned.

There were only three home runs, a re­cord low for the event. This year’s win­ner was first-time cham­pi­on (and 2009 run­ner-up) Ry­an Ad­cock, a gradu­ate of Abing­ton High School and Pep­perdine Uni­versity.

“I flopped. I was the main at­trac­tion, and I dis­ap­poin­ted,” said Borody­ansky, last year’s win­ner.

However, Borody­ansky was able to find some ex­cuses for his lackluster hit­ting dis­play.

“I was the very first per­son to hit, so I didn’t feel so great swinging,” he said. “The wind was blow­ing in, so it ad­ded an­oth­er ele­ment to it.”

Welte con­curred.

“There was a real big cross­wind, knock­ing balls down in the out­field,” he said.

TJ Far­rell also agreed with Welte and Borody­ansky, but he did give cred­it to pitch­ing coach Joe O’Hara and his age­less arm. 

“Usu­ally balls fly out of this park in past events, but I think Coach O’s stuff was good,” TJ said, laugh­ing. “The wind wasn’t too bad, but it def­in­itely seemed to play a factor if you got the ball too high up in it. It seemed to knock the ball right down. In years past, some moon shots were seen and we really didn’t have any that stuck out.

O’Hara comes out every year to pitch for the event, he said.

“We can’t thank Coach O enough, not just for throw­ing thou­sands of pitches for us each year, but for everything he has taught us,” he said.

“His arm was good. He threw a mil­lion pitches as al­ways. It’s amaz­ing,” Borody­ansky ad­ded.

The Derby hon­ors the op­tim­ist­ic spir­it of An­drew Far­rell, and it truly rep­res­ents what An­drew was all about: cre­at­ing and de­vel­op­ing friend­ships and simply hav­ing fun on the base­ball dia­mond, all while rais­ing money for a good cause.

“It’s an amaz­ing thing to know that every play­er that touches that field is go­ing to know who An­drew Far­rell was, and what he stood for,” TJ Far­rell said. “It’s truly an hon­or to our fam­ily and to him, who had gone through so much and nev­er stopped fight­ing, even at the end. The turnout from fam­ily, friends and com­plete strangers is in­cred­ible and truly hum­bling.”

The event keeps the George Wash­ing­ton base­ball fam­ily just that — a fam­ily. An­drew Far­rell may be gone, but his spir­it and cour­age al­low us to build and ma­ture a spe­cial fam­ily every year. ••

For more in­form­a­tion about An­drew Far­rell and the Home Run Derby, go to ht­tp://an­drew­far­rell.org/

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You can reach at andrew.porter@cbsradio.com.

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