Al Leiter throws out first pitch to kick-off 6th annual Strike Out Autism Challenge
It's an event bigger than all of us as is its cause.
Jerry Frulio, the former Central Regional Baseball Coach and current head of the Central Regional Autism Awareness Club, explains (as in the video above), to raise awareness and money to go towards educational programs for students with autism.
"Our goal is to raise awareness," Frulio said. "The general public is mostly misinformed about the autism disorder. It's the fastest growing developmental disorder in our country."
The 6th Annual Strike Out Autism Challenge is hosted by the club Jerry leads which is the Central Regional Autism Awareness Club as well as the Central Regional Education Association.
This event is far from the only awareness event the CRAAC runs over the course of the year.
"We raise money and with that money we're able to directly impact the lives of students with autism and other areas of special needs," Frulio said. "We purchase items that help teachers to run more adequate programs in participating schools in the Ocean and Monmouth County area."
As a result of these programs, the students in them are not only able to excel in the classroom but prepare for the real world that awaits them.
"Our goal with those students is to get them ready for life after school. They're not going to spend their whole lives in a high school. They're not going to spend their whole lives in an autism program where everything is geared toward them and their development," Frulio said. "At some point the real world is waiting for them and we like to be able to make these purchases to make their lives and learning experiences that much better and give them an opportunity to live a successful and prosperous life."
There was no admission fee but there were plenty of family friendly activities, raffles, prizes and of course baseball and softball games going on across the Jersey Shore.
On the mound to throw out the ceremonial first pitches to kick-off the event was 1984 state champion and Central Regional High School graduate Al Leiter who of course went on to become a 3-time world champion in a successful major league career before becoming a highly-respected analyst with the YES Network and MLB Network.
Being able to come back to Central today means a lot to the former Golden Eagle.
"Anytime you get a chance to help out in any way, whether it's your time and volunteer and do whatever is necessary to help those in need, raise money and the awareness itself," Leiter said.
The 2000 Roberto Clemente Award winner while with the New York Met's knows is always important to remember your roots.
"This is where (Central Regional) it started for me, I come from a big family with 5-older brothers and we went through the Berkeley system from pee-wee and little league right through high school," Leiter said. "I got a chance to play in the major leagues as a result of baseball and it's opened me up to a lot of other cool opportunities and because of that I want to give back.
It's a real simple thing. If you can do whatever you can to make a difference, however small in my neighborhood, my community, my city, my state...it's to do the right thing and to do the right thing is important. I think giving back when you can is a must, it's not an option. Everybody should feel that way.
It's not about writing checks, it's about coming out for a variety of causes and to help others in need...that's it."
This is also a lesson he passes on to any current high school athlete as well, that when they never forget where they came from and who helped them get there.
"I can fondly remember in 1984 my teammates...my buddies from Central Regional taking the bus ride after winning the state championship against Indian Hills from Princeton University," Leiter recalled.
He shares more of his memories, gives advice to today's athletes and breaks down the early struggles of the New York Yankees in 2018 below: