SALISBURY, Md. – Jack Barry, a junior on the Salisbury University baseball team, was invited to participate in an amateur showcase in Miami back in December. The invitation also provided Barry an opportunity to give back to a local charity.
Last June, Salisbury Head Coach Troy Brohawn invited Barry into his office to tell him about an email he had received from a man named Brian Domenico. Domenico is the founder and CEO of an annual amateur baseball event called the International Power Showcase. It is the same event that a 16-year-old Bryce Harper once smacked a 502-foot home run back in 2009. Barry had been invited to participate and jumped at the opportunity to represent his school and the state of Maryland, but it was the opportunity to represent a far more important cause that would leave a lasting impact.
The showcase includes the "Home Runs for Help" campaign. The derby-style contest asks each invitee to partner with someone with a life-threatening illness, as well as a charity or organization that works to help those suffering from the disease.
Barry knew right away who it was he planned to represent. The mother of teammate and close friend Simon Palenchar, Nicole, had been diagnosed with stage four breast cancer. When he first reached out to explain his intentions, the Palenchars were unsure how comfortable they would be receiving money directly.
"She [Nicole] suggested that I go through the Women Supporting Women Foundation," Barry said. "They had already been supporting her throughout her treatment and battle with stage four."
Women Supporting Women is a Delmarva-based foundation that supports women in the region dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis. They help by collecting money to make wigs and put together care packages for those in the hospital.
Before leaving for Miami, Barry started a GoFundMe page in Nicole's honor that ended up raising over $1,500 in a month and a half. All of the proceeds were then sent to the Women Supporting Women Foundation.
Barry arrived in Miami on the evening of December 26 and checked into his hotel. Waiting for him was a uniform with his name and a big "MD" on the back of his jersey where numbers would normally be displayed.
"The next day we woke up and went straight to the stadium where we had a pro-style workout," Barry said. "We took batting practice on the field. We threw across the infield and took ground balls. We also ran a 60-yard dash."
There is a significance to the showcase that goes beyond just getting to experience a day in the life of a professional baseball player. Scouts representing all 30 Major League Baseball teams are in attendance throughout the four days and use the opportunity to evaluate each participant, write up a report, and send it back to their front offices.
Day two of the showcase features the Home Run Derby. All of the college players get a chance to participate and compete.
"Everyone was given three minutes with a wooden bat, two minutes with a metal bat, and a 30-second break in between," Barry said.
The invitees are given the day off on Friday to explore the city before returning to the park on Saturday to compete in an 11-inning game under the lights. Barry's team won the contest, 9-4.
Barry says his experience was a lot of fun and one he'll never forget, but he's also grown as a person from being able to help out and provide financial assistance to an organization he truly believes in. He also says he hopes he'll have opportunities in the future to do something similar.
"This is the first time I have ever done anything like start a GoFundMe and ask for donations," Barry said. "If I go back next year, I plan to do something similar, but up the bar some and try and raise even more money. I have a soft spot in my heart for those in similar situations, especially now that I have seen and dealt with it up close."
If you would like to donate to the Women Supporting Women foundation, you can do so through their website, or by sending a check to:
Women Supporting Women
1320 Belmont Ave. Ste. 402
Salisbury, MD 21804