Baseball fans, players, friends, family and co-workers turned out in force last weekend to show their support for Lynn’s Jeff Blydell, a coach and teacher who is fighting cancer.
The North Shore Baseball League took over Fraser Field Sunday to honor Blydell, who founded and still coaches the North Shore Phillies, one of the 10 teams in the league. Blydell is also an elementary school physical education teacher in Lynn and an assistant varsity baseball coach at English High.
Although he had spent the better part of the week prior to the big day in the hospital, Blydell was ready to go come game time. Prior to the start of the Phillies-Bistany Bombers game at 3 p.m., Blydell was presented a plaque by NSBL Commissioner Mike Parker. Blydell’s Phillies players, including his son, Chris, and others who have been with the team the whole way or close to it (10 years), also joined him on the field.
All 10 teams played with the games beginning at 10 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. Volunteers sold raffle tickets throughout the day for an assortment of prizes including Red Sox tickets, Bruins tickets, sports memorabilia and gift certificates to a variety of restaurants and businesses. Sports Hub Radio (98.5), where Blydell’s daughter, Jenna, works donated several of the big prizes.
“It’s overwhelming. All the generosity from all the people who showed up and participated is amazing.,” Blydell said. “They got some real nice contributions for raffles. A lot of people stepped up and volunteered their time to be here all day long and keep things moving.”
Chris Blydell, who made sure he made his father’s day even better by going 3-for-4 with three RBI, said the outpouring of support means a lot to him and his family.
“All the people who have been here already on such a hot day. It’s amazing,” the younger Blydell said prior to the start of the Phillies game at 3 p.m. “It’s unreal to see all the donations and to see the officials of the North Shore Baseball League and how they put this all together.”
Blydell said what has been really great is the people who have come up and told him stories about how they met his dad, how they played baseball with him or umpired with him or how he had taught their kids to play.
“It’s crazy to see the big impact he’s had on kids’ lives and people’s lives. It makes you feel good,” he said.
Parker said the league had hoped to work out something with the North Shore Navigators to do a day of baseball at Fraser Field. When word of Blydell’s illness came out, they were able to tie everything together. The Navigators provided the field and staffed the concessions for the day.
“He (Blydell) is a great guy. He loves the game of baseball. I call him an old-school gentleman. He’s always gracious,” Parker said.
Chris Carroll, who coaches the Phillies with Blydell, said once people started hearing about the event it caught on.
“Jeff is such a well-known guy. I think once people caught wind of it and it started getting shared on social media, with the help of the local papers, it just exploded,” Carroll said.