It was a close one! The USA Patriots, formerly known as the Wounded Warrior Softball Team, recently squared off against the Bayport-Blue Point All Stars, in a game that lasted nearly three hours and …
It was a close one! The USA Patriots, formerly known as the Wounded Warrior Softball Team, recently squared off against the Bayport-Blue Point All Stars, in a game that lasted nearly three hours and eventually led to the BBP All Stars losing 15-14. The game was part of an annual fundraising event that brings the amputee softball team to Long Island each year; this year marked their seventh year on Long Island, according to Joe Bartumioli, one of the event’s organizers.
The USA Patriots are a team of veterans who lost limbs during combat or non-combat activities and only face off against able-bodied teams, according to their website. The softball game brought out approximately 250 people, who traveled to the Bayport Commons for a day of softball and raffles.
“There’s a good portion of the Bayport-Blue Point community here, and there’s even people from New Jersey and upstate New York. The Patriots have their own following, so people come from all over the country to watch them play,” said Scott June, who helped organize the event and played with the BBP All Stars.
Additionally, in an effort to raise more funds, the event’s organizers invited Chelsea Carol, a local Long Island artist based out of Plainview. Carol was asked to create a patriotic painting, which she worked on in front of a live audience of onlookers during the softball game. The flag painting was eventually auctioned off for $500.
In past years, the USA Patriots played different Long Island teams, including a team of local police officers. Team members are from all over the United States, but team member Matias Ferreira is from Smithtown and works as a police officer instructor. Ferreira brought his daughter, Tianna, to the game.
“She’s been coming with me to games since she was a baby,” said Ferreira.
The team plays in an average of two games a month, but they’ve slowed down due to COVID-19. Still, they work hard to prove their mission, which is to inspire people to participate and compete, despite body challenges.
“We travel around the country playing softball while trying to motivate and inspire. And we also hold a kids camp for about 20 kids, ages 8 to 12, who are amputees. We teach them that just because you have a missing limb doesn’t mean you can’t do absolutely everything,” said Nick Salerno, a Patriots team member.
The camp costs $180,000 to run, according to Desiree Ellison, executive director of the USA Patriots.
“Everything they raise here helps us put on our kids’ camp,” she said.
According to Ellison, Bartumioli, the event’s organizer, has helped raise $300,000 for the team over the seven years he’s been hosting them on Long Island.
“In 2011, I saw a clip of them on HBO Real Sports. They were having tryouts. I called the manager and, at first, I was just going to donate some money, but then it turned into all of this,” said Bartumioli of learning of the USA Patriots softball team.
For the past seven years, all of the Long Island games hosting the USA Patriots have been free, and that’s how it will remain, according to Bartumioli. Bartumioli believes the games should be free so that everyone can come to see the team play and get inspired by what they are able to accomplish. Back in 2012, Bartumioli had help from “Sopranos” actor James Gandolfini, who Bartumioli remembers wearing a team T-shirt. This year, one of the event’s biggest sponsors was Long Island American Bikers for Awareness, Training & Education (ABATE).
“This is about great people doing great things,” said Chris Beckhans, president of Long Island ABATE, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to motorcycle awareness and education, and also veterans’ events.
For the team members and their families, the USA Patriots are more than just a team; they are a way to get involved again.
“I appreciate what they’re doing because when Ben goes away for a game and then comes back home to me and our twins, he comes back refreshed and happy. Sometimes we all go to dark places, but the team helps Ben move away from the darkness,” added Griselle Mitchell, the wife of player Ben Mitchell.