Varsity Baseball Inspires

Varsity Baseball Team Inspires
Posted on 05/28/2018
Varsity Baseballby Greg Tufaro, @GregTurfaro (Sports Writer at the Home News Tribune)

As the smallest “member” of the South Amboy High School baseball team, 4-year-old Michael Grzankowski made the biggest impact.

“Our goal was to keep playing for Michael,” South Amboy head coach Dan Poulsen explained, noting his players were devastated following last week’s sectional quarterfinal loss to Shore Regional, which meant the Governors’ season came to an end.

“We knew time was running out that he’d be around for games, so we wanted to keep it going as long as possible.”

Michael was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), a severe congenital cardiac defect that requires a series of three open-heart surgeries to correct. Michael underwent his first reconstructive operation six days after he was born, and had his second repair six months later. Michael will undergo his third open-heart surgery on Thursday at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), which pioneered the life-saving intervention.

Prior to Saturday’s Greater Middlesex Conference Tournament final at Raymond J. Cipperly Field on the campus of East Brunswick Tech, Michael, wearing his official South Amboy jersey with a No. 1 on the back, and a Governors baseball cap, which every member of the team autographed, joined Poulsen and his players on the field to partake in a group photo as the ballclub received its Gold Division championship plaque.Michael Grzankowski joins the Governors as they receive their Gold Division championship plaque on Saturday.

Michael wore his gold and purple South Amboy jersey with the team nickname emblazoned across the chest and his white baseball cap with the gold brim bearing the high school’s initials in purple calligraphy to his pre-admission testing at CHOP last week.

He refused to remove the hat while getting bloodwork, an electrocardiogram and other tests.

“I asked Michael, ‘Why did you keep the hat on the whole time?’” Michael’s father, Mike Grzankowski said. “He told me, ‘They are my friends and they support me all the time, even when I didn’t want to do my tests.’"

The South Amboy coach and kids took him on and made him feel like he is really part of them. They did an amazing thing taking time out for this kid.”

The Grzankowskis, who live in Laurence Harbor, attended their first South Amboy game in the middle of the season, coming out to watch family friend Nick Charmello. A junior infielder and pitcher, Charmello finished the season as the team’s leader in batting average (.500), RBI (29), hits (28), doubles (9) and also boasted a 5-0 record with a 2.88 ERA on the mound.Michael Grzankowski waks onto the field with South Amboy star Nick Charmello.

We went to one game and the South Amboy boys just took Michael under their wing and made him a part of the team,” Michael’s mother, Jen Grzankowski said, noting the Governors adopted her son as the team “mascot.”

Jen said Michael is “addicted to baseball” and that the family continued to frequent South Amboy games, which allowed him to “get the concept of the game and do whatever he wants and watch them play.” Poulsen, who described Michael as "charming and happy," said he often noticed the boy and his father playing catch on the sidelines when the Governors were on the field.

They are just young boys who reached out and made a whole world of difference in Michael,” Jen said of Poulsen's players. “They didn’t need to do any of that. Every time he goes there, all their spirits and his spirit is uplifted. What they did is just great for him.”

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