SOUTHINGTON — Few things are more American than baseball and drive-in movies.
Patrons at the Southington Drive-in were treated to a doubleheader of sorts on Saturday as a dozen members of the Blue Knights high school baseball team organized a Wiffle ball game prior to the showing of the movie, “Rio.”
The movie was sponsored by Bread for Life, which is Southington’s soup kitchen. The organization and coach Charlie Lembo’s baseball team have a long history of working together to ensure that no one is hungry in Southington.
“The baseball players are amazing,” said Donna Ayer, executive director of Bread for Life. “Coach Lembo is great about making sure that they understand the importance of giving back. Bread for Life is near and dear to their heart. They are helping us (Saturday), they help with food drives, they help around Thanksgiving. They help whenever we need them.”
Lembo said the relationship between his program and Bread for Life goes back almost a decade.
“We try to teach our players that there are things more important than a baseball game,” Lembo said. “There are things more important than your batting average or your win-loss record. There are more important things in life. The kids are so busy with school and sports but I think it is important that they give back. They love working with the kids.”
The high school ballplayers were in their element Saturday night. By 6:30, about 20 children gathered for an impromptu pick-up game. Natalia Gause, 7, of Rocky Hill came equipped with her pink baseball glove because, “my mom said there were going to be baseball players here.”
“We come to the Southington Drive-in a couple times a season,” said Southington graduate Carey Gause, also known as mom. “I think what the baseball team is doing is amazing.”
The Wiffle ball game offered the high school team and the children the opportunity to connect – and connect the younger kids did. Southington senior Tyler Strong struggled to get out of the first inning on the mound against the little sluggers. He didn’t get much help from his fielders, but the pitcher seemed to take the loss in stride.
“This gives us a chance to bond as a team and contribute to the community,” Strong said. “We’re also promoting baseball in the community. Southington has given so much to us through various leagues over the years. We need to give back, too.”