Baseball has been part of Connor McCormack’s life since he was five. A senior this year at Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, the 18-year-old made the decision to take his love of the game and teach it to children who had never experienced the thrill of standing on a pitcher’s mound, hitting a baseball or rounding the bases.
“I just had an idea out of the blue to do this,” said McCormack. “There are a lot of [students] who go down [to Haiti] and bring food or teach the kids academics, but I wanted to help out in a different way. I love baseball; it’s my favorite sport and I know a lot about it so I thought I could teach it.”
Each year Seton students have the opportunity to participate on a mission trip coordinated by Seton faculty Sister Brigid O’ Mahoney, MHJ, and Sister Lorraine Mangini, MHJ. McCormack knew he wanted to be part of the mission trip this summer to Haiti but wasn’t sure if his idea to teach a game, rather than help rebuild a school or home, would be well received.
“I brought my idea to Sister Brigid and as soon as I mentioned I wanted to teach a baseball camp she said she had a field, knew a mission group that would help us sponsor it, and had a group of kids who really wanted to play,” explained McCormack. “All I needed to do was get volunteers to help and then everything just fell in place perfectly.”
McCormack, a member of the Seton varsity baseball team, approached two of his friends, Robert Olson, who is also on the varsity baseball team, and Jordan Wilson, a lacrosse player for Seton, to help volunteer at the baseball camp. Both Olson and Wilson agreed and what was once just an idea to create a baseball camp for children in Haiti started quickly becoming reality.
Additional teens signed up for the trip and on June 29, McCormack and several volunteers, including the Curcio family from Broome County, boarded a plane for Haiti with 18 bags of baseball bats, t-shirts, balls, hats and gloves donated by local merchants, family and friends.
The moment the teen volunteers arrived in Haiti, word quickly spread that the “baseball camp” would soon be starting.
For four days, McCormack and the other mission volunteers worked with approximately 56 children to teach them the game. Initially, McCormack had hoped to hold two training sessions a day, but due to the intense heat he settled for one long training period that ran until noon break. The volunteers split the children up into teams, each with a designated color that matched their hat and t-shirt, and coached them on hitting, fielding and basic knowledge of the game.
“It took a while to work on the fundamentals,” laughed McCormack. “We had to teach them how to swing a bat and for some of the kids it was a real challenge, but others in the group showed real natural talent.”
On the last day of baseball camp, McCormack and the volunteers cheered as the four teams of children, the majority of whom had never held a bat before that week, were laughing, running and sliding into home plate.
“The kids had a lot of fun,” McCormack said. “They really seemed to love the game and we noticed after the camp was finished, the kids who had attended began teaching their friends and family who hadn’t been at the clinic how to play the game.”
Now back at Seton for his last year in high school, McCormack is looking forward to a busy year and is planning to major in engineering when he heads off to college. But the idea of returning to Haiti at some point in the future is something that McCormack will consider.
“It was really a trip of a lifetime, and not just because of the baseball. We had a chance to visit the city of Port Au Prince and to stop at a children’s hospital and an orphanage before we returned back to the U.S. Going to the hospital was a real life-changing experience,” stated McCormack. “I never saw a malnourished baby before or a child that was so desperate just to be held they wouldn’t let go of you for hours. It really changed how I looked at life from that point on. I’d go back if I had the chance. I’d go back and do it all over again.”