HILLSBOROUGH – Both the Hillsborough High School baseball and softball teams weren’t able to take the field this spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The virus took away each squad’s chance to demonstrate their talents on the diamond. However, it did bring both teams more closer together to help the Hillsborough community fight COVID-19.
Players from each program have made strides to help the Hillsborough community combat the virus and are now joining forces for a special initiative to raise funds to support local food banks by selling specially made T-shirts.
The idea was created by Nancy Rygiel, who has children in both programs. Her son Andrew is a senior on the baseball team and daughter Katie is a junior on the softball team.
“We talked about both teams doing a joint fundraiser before the season started,” Rygiel said. “Both teams every year try to do something to help the Hillsborough community. This was an opportunity to continue that and join together to help people in Hillsborough.”
Rygiel created the slogan “The Season We Were Always Safe At Home”, which is spelled out on the back of the shirt.
The front of the shirt design reads Hillsborough Baseball and Softball with the year 2020 in the middle of a baseball logo.
Rygiel brought her idea first to Hillsborough varsity baseball Coach Eric Eden and Hillsborough varsity softball Coach Cheryl Iaione, who both loved the idea, she said.
Representing the softball side, Rygiel teamed up with Ratna Patel, who helped run the baseball side of the fundraiser. Patel is the junior class mom for the baseball team. She is also the philanthropy chair and next season’s treasure elect for the Raider Diamond Club, the booster program for the Hillsborough High School baseball team. Her son, Tejas, is a junior on the baseball team.
This spring, the Raider Diamond Club spearheaded a food drive with four of their local sponsors for Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-Somerset to help feed local healthcare workers.
“It’s very important to the Raider Diamond Club and the baseball program to give back to the community every year,” Patel said. “We do different activities and events with the community each year. Nancy (Ryigel) came to us with the T-shirt idea and we thought it would be a good cause to help out the community.”
Shirts are being sold for $10 and were made by Screen Styles by Mitch, a screen and embroidery clothing store in Manville.
Rygiel praised the company for its generosity in their price for the shirts because the funds raised by both teams were going to the local food banks.
Social media has been a huge part in both programs promoting the T-shirt initiative all around Hillsborough, Patel said.
As of May 17, the fundraiser had sold 146 tees and raised just over $800 for the food pantries.
May 18 was supposed to be the last day of the sale, but Rygiel is extending it to May 25.
“I enjoy seeing both teams working together to help the community,” Rygiel said. “We didn’t know what to expect at first. It’s nice to be able to sell over 100 T-shirts. The kids are doing a great job to help spread the word and get more donations.”
Patel added that future donations are still being talked about. She said that an idea has been made about taking pictures of players wearing the shirts they bought as another way to promote the cause on social media for more donations.
Once T-shirt orders come, players from each team will deliver the shirts to each buyer in a safe and social distancing manner, Rygiel said.
The success the two teams have had with the t-shirt fundraiser has Rygiel hoping for the two programs to do more philanthropic activities for the community going forward.
“My heart breaks for all the seniors,” Rygiel said. “I know a lot of them were disappointed in not getting to play a final season for Hillsborough. They really have tried to make the most of this situation by helping the community. I hope both teams can continue to do that in the future.”
To place a donation and order a T-shirt, visit https://forms.gle/J5wTyYqo1wtYmMmt5.