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A community game of catch called "Hey, Mom, Wanna Have A Catch?" climaxed Sunday afternoon, hosted by the New Milford Express U15 youth baseball players, their families and friends on the Village Green.

The Express players and many others successfully engaged in a 48-hour marathon game of catch on a roped-off area on the Green. The public was welcome to participate and urged to donate.

Event organizer Dan Olson reported 225 participants, ranging in age from 60-somethings to 22-month-old Lily Lipinsky, daughter of New Milford High athletic director Keith Lipinsky.

The Mother's Day weekend event started Friday, May 10, at 6 p.m. with Mayor Pat Murphy executing the ceremonial first throw on the money to Grace Linhard, executive director of the Western Connecticut Health Network Foundation.

Two days and countless throws and catches later, including overnight sessions enhanced by lighting, the event closed with News-Times/Spectrum Editor Emeritus Art Cummings and Spectrum Editor Norm Cummings rekindling memories of their youth by exchanging a few throws.

Donations were accepted throughout the event, with all of the proceeds to benefit the Western Connecticut Health Network for its fight against breast cancer.

Participants were attempting to set a world record for the longest game of catch, although Olson isn't sure there even is such a record on the books.

Participants used the Major League Baseball pink-stitched, pink-printed ball to be used in every Major League stadium on Mother's Day.

Express participants, including players, parents and siblings, sported pink T-shirts graced by "Hey, Mom, Wanna Have A Catch?"

Among the participants were Paul and Rita Iverson of New Milford, who brought their own gloves. Paul Iverson is the coach for the New Milford American Legion baseball team.

Their son, Sam, an ex-pitcher at New Milford High and Eastern Connecticut State University, joined them as well.

Also on hand were Legion assistant coach Brian Lemay and his father, Paul. Their last "catch" together was in Dyersville, Iowa, on the field featured in Kevin Costner's "Field of Dreams," a movie closing with the iconic line, "Hey, Dad, wanna have a catch?"

"It was an emotional moment for both of them," said Olson.

Perhaps the busiest participant was Austin Usaty, 7, younger brother of Express player Chris.

"I had to convince him to go out there and throw the first time," Olson said, "and then, like a person who says `no' to riding a rollercoaster, he goes once and then you can't get him off.

"Austin certainly made the most throws," he added, "and every throw was as high a velocity as was possible."

A couple of dads of former New Milford youth and high school baseball players, John Kaiser and Sonny Shaw, helped anchor the Saturday morning shift from 2 to 5 a.m., much of it during rain showers.

"John felt we might need some help during that shift and came and endured the rain, and Sonny came late Friday and left 10½ hours later on Saturday morning,"Olson said.

One of the Express players, Tim Rehm, passed much of a late Saturday night shift playing catch with teammate Ryan Fabich while explaining quantum physics theories.

"He did not take a breath for about an hour," joked his coach. "He was apparently proving that he was a student athlete. We all just sat there and wondered what he was talking about."

For Olson, the experience proved to be a personal 48 hours.

"To share this with my entire family was quite special," he said. "My wife, Laura, who is the ultimate baseball mom, and my son, Jackson, an Express player, experiencing a real `Hey, Mom, wanna have a catch' moment was emotional for all of us.

"I also shared a catch with my daughter, Ari, and with both of my sons, Jackson and Alex," he said. "We have all spent literally hundreds and hundreds of hours doing the same in our yard, driveway and ball field."

Ari's boyfriend, Zach Molinaro, and his father, Anthony, also joined in the game of catch.

When it came time to take down the tents and pack away all the gear, the weary Olson had a bit of time to think about what had just transpired for 48 hours on the New Milford Village Green.

"It was very rewarding," he said. "It was very emotional. We watched 13 young men grow up before our eyes.

"They took this seriously," Olson added. "When they realized how important the cause was, they really figured it out and really got it. They had fun, but it was also a no-nonsense event for them.

"It is amazing what a great feeling it is for people to do something so simple, but for many it is a nostalgic experience."

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Norm Cummings

Photography by Norm Cummings