A home run of a non-profit
UMBC outfielder has raised more than $200,000 since 2002
At a very young age, Michael Pesci realized how lucky he was to be a healthy, normal child that could go outside and run around the yard or swing a bat or play catch without any handicaps or disabilities to slow him down.
By the time he was 11 years old, Pesci had several experiences with mentally and physically handicapped children who wanted to be involved in sports, which led him to wanting to personally create a way of raising money for the kids that had touched his life.
Pesci, a native of Parsippany, N.J., who is now a junior outfielder at UMBC, started an annual Home Run Derby as a fundraiser, and in the first year, the event drew over 100 people from the community who participated.
With the help of his parents, Pesci’s brainstorm grew into an official 501c3 Not-for-Profit Corporation named Perfect Pitch HRD, Inc. The organization has raised more than $200,000 since 2002, benefiting physically and mentally handicapped children.
“Coaches are always looking for kids with high character who love their sport,” UMBC head coach John Jancuska said. “Michael is passionate about baseball but understands there are some other things just as important in life. Of course, he’s been doing this a long time. It was exciting for us to not just get a good baseball player but someone who could impact our team in other ways.”
One of the keys to Pesci’s success in raising monies for his cause was his friendship with Don Larsen – the former New York Yankee, who is the only person in Major League Baseball history to toss a perfect game in the World Series (1956). Pesci met Larsen through a family friend that was working with the Yankees at the time and Larsen liked Pesci’s charitable venture.
“He was extremely friendly, and thought what I was doing was very noble,” Pesci said.
The youngster asked the Yankee great for an autographed baseball that he could sell in order to raise money for his cause. Larsen signed that ball, and shortly afterwards sent him some more memorabilia and an encouraging letter.
Larsen has helped the organization ever since, and will appear at a Meet and Greet with former New York Yankee Rick Cerrone in June as a fundraiser. Larsen, along with former Yankee pitchers David Cone and David Wells who have also tossed perfect games, have also donated memorabilia for a raffle that will be held in June.
The money the organization has raised has touched several lives, but there are a couple main causes are regular beneficiaries of Perfect Pitch HRD. Special Scout Troop #364 – a group of 10 physically and mentally handicapped men ages 30 to 45 – are very special to Pesci. He organized and a chaperoned a trip to Disney World for the group – all paid for by Perfect Pitch HRD.
“That was an awesome experience because these guys had never been on a vacation like that before,” Pesci said. “Having them see Mickey Mouse put them in another world. It was amazing and words cannot really describe it.”
When UMBC has played in the New York area, some of the scout troop members have come to watch Pesci play, which is a thrill for both the player and his fans.
“They love it,” Pesci said. “Watching me play, to them is like any normal person watching Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees. I’m their hero … it’s awesome.
Perfect Pitch HRD has also promised to indefinitely sponsor a young girl named Rebecca, who has Spina Bifida, meaning her spinal column did not form correctly. The organization has provided Rebecca with special wheel chairs giving her the ability to move more independently, along with providing her a cell phone, laptop, school clothes, and throwing her a Sweet 16 birthday party.
Pesci’s longtime charitable work has not gone unnoticed, especially in the baseball community. In 2009, Pesci along and his sister Christina were among the 30 winners of the “All-Stars Among Us” campaign, which spotlights people who have gone above and beyond to serve their communities. Christina is president of Bridging the Generation Gap, an outreach organization which promotes friendship between young people and senior citizens.
Major League Baseball fans across the nation voted for one person or group to represent each of the 30 professional teams, and the Pescis were chosen to represent the New York Yankees at the 2009 MLB All-Star Game.
“That was an amazing experience,” Pesci said. “I’m such a big fan of baseball. My dream would be to play professional baseball even though I know that’s not a reality. Being in front of all the best players in the game and having them applaud you for what you’ve done in the community in front of 50,000 fans was truly remarkable.”
Pesci, who is majoring in non-profit administration, plans on running Perfect Pitch HRD for as long as possible.
“It’s very rewarding seeing the happiness on the faces of the people that I help,” Pesci said. “It’s not about just raising the money -- I’ve formed friendships with these people.”