NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Former NECC baseball alumni celebrate

On Sunday, October 19, players from past and present NECC Knights baseball teams gathered on the Haverhill campus for the second annual Alumni Day. In all, about 17 baseball alums from several different Knights’ teams and their families came to the festivities which included a cookout, a home run derby and an alumni baseball game.

Among the players who came to the game were Francisco Baez (’03), a former All-Star and a member of the first state championship team, effectively “starting the winning tradition here”, as Athletic Director Sue MacAvoy puts it.

Also present were members of the 2005 team, as well as more recent teams, like 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Representing the 2012 team were Pat Parker, a former All-American who went on to play two years for the Umass Lowell RiverHawks, and Keegan Pafford, another All-American who won a Rawlings’ Gold Glove award for his outstanding play in centerfield.

One member of the 2013 team who was present was Dan Bonito, who took home the prize in the home run derby with 3 homers over the right field fence.

However, the real star of the afternoon was former Knight Manny Cabral (’13). After graduating from NECC last year, Cabral decided that he wanted to make a difference. He did this by donating some of his bone marrow to a person who needed it, a person whom he didn’t even know.

Sue MacAvoy was truly moved by his selflessness, and decided that she was going to nominate him for an Outstanding Alumni Award to recognize his community service. Cabral received the award at graduation last year.

“To think that an All-Star player with a bright future would just put athletics aside like that and help another person, I don’t even have any words to describe it,” said MacAvoy.

Fast forward to the weekend of October 19, and Cabral is about to meet the woman who received his bone marrow. He decided to bring Rebecca Dolan, 32, of Columbus, Ohio, to the Alumni Day festivities.

Dolan received Cabral’s bone marrow in January of 2013, and credits Manny with saving her life. She has since returned to her job at the Ohio State University, and after some emails back and forth, the two agreed to meet on October 17. Dolan and her immediate family flew into Boston on the evening of the 17, and met Cabral at his aunt’s house. Together they sat and talked, and Dolan was finally able to thank her savior face to face.

The alumni played a full seven-inning game that lasted about two hours. Former Knights’ coach Chris Shanahan, who was with the Knights in their 2012 World Series run, coached the alumni team.

In the fifth inning, there was a ceremony on the field where Cabral received his Knights team jersey, and Rebecca was given some NECC baseball gear. Dolan also gave Cabral several gifts, including a book full of thank you letters from her friends and family.
After the game, MacAvoy and Cabral’s coach, Jeff Mejia, spoke about Cabral’s service and his selflessness.

“We talked about how we wanted our other athletes to grow and have a positive impact on other people’s lives,” said MacAvoy.

After the home run derby and baseball game were over, players and their families gathered for a barbeque.

“Everyone had a great time, current and former players sat together and shared stories,” said Sue MacAvoy.

The alumni who gathered for the festivities that afternoon spanned from the 2003 and 2005 teams all the way to the 2012, 2013 and 2014 World Series teams. The day was filled with great fun and fond memories being shared by all. Next fall, the alums will gather on the Haverhill campus again for another great Alumni Day.