Little League

Not-So-Little, Little Leaguer

Life is built on the messages we send.

It was a cold and damp day when I visited the Pt. Lookout ballpark early this spring. Perhaps a fitting day to face the sad reality of a young man’s short stay on this globe. It was one year ago, Apr 29th, when ten-year-old Lazar LaPenna ran to this base and died—for lack of a piece of equipment.

First base, at Point Lookout ball field, where ten-year-old Lazar last stood.

When Lazar ran to first base he was met by his brother, Gerry, the first base coach. Lazar reached out to Gerry, touched his shoulder and said, “I don’t feel good,” then dropped to the ground. I’m sure Gerry will remember that touch for the rest of his life. Lazar’s teammates who saw him fall will remember that too. We all need to remember Lazar.

Toward that need to remember a ball field at Malibu Camp where the LaPenna kids went to camp was dedicated to Lazar, by Butch and Linda Yamili owners of the Dover Group. https://www.dovergroupny.com

That was a really nice message.

At that dedication Nassau Count Exec, Bruce Blakeman and Congressman Anthony D’ Esposito said they’d dedicate the Point Lookout field to Lazar as well. I’m sure they are very busy with local and federal business, and they sincerely intended for that dedication to happen—but it has not yet happened.

Many of you have read my Apr. 25th New York Newsday essay about the lack of Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) on Little League ballfields. In case you missed it:

My NY Newsday essay of Apr. 25, 2023

A few days before Newsday published the above article I emailed the Town of Hempstead (TOH) NY’s Parks and Rec asking if there was to be an AED this year at Pt. Lookout. I received no response. I called Pt. Lookout ball field and I was told there was no AED present and no information about one coming. I called TOH Parks and Rec and left a phone message, still no response. So on Apr. 25th Newsday published the above. (Note: In fairness, there is litigation in progress about AEDs at the TOH ball fields which might account for the lack of response.)

The next day, Apr 26th, I received a notice that the Town of Hempstead will be installing AED devices at Pt. Lookout Park and that Will and Cliff Skudin of Skudin Surf Camp: https://tinyurl.com/skdnsurf are donating their time to keep kids safe by training coaches on those devices and on CPR.

Apr 27—Lazar’s birthday—the Skudin’s held that first session. I visited the Skudin Camp and spoke with Cliff, Woody (a Marine Brother to me,) and their mom, Beth Skudin. They are seen here about to start the two-hour lesson with videos followed by hands-on AED and CPR training with of the first twelve Hempstead Town Little League coaches. The lessons by the Skudin’s and their time—all free.

That’s a nice message.

From left: Beth, Woody and Cliff Skudin. Woody and Cliff founded Skudin Surf Camp. The thumbs-up mural to the right is the late Bill Bolton, Beth’s brother.

The Skudin’s have a long history of giving in Long Beach. They see a need to help with the resources they hold, and step forward. I spoke with Cliff Skudin who said, “This is something that we really like to do.” He also said that since 2002, they’ve been holding surfing classes for the disabled and people with autism through their non-profit Surf For All program. The program is based in Long Beach, NY : https://surfforall.org

That’s a beautiful message.

The coaches who gathered around the Skudin’s are there after their regular work day to learn how to best help keep safe the kids they coach. They coach the games in the precious free time they have from work, family responsibilities and the other life obligations that we all have. They do it because they care.

That too is a beautiful message.

Today, more than ever—in these often horrible times—our young need these messages.

Lazar loved Little League…

Lazar #9, waits his turn next his cousin, Emmerson, #11. Photo by Lazar’s Aunt, Cindy LaPenna

…and the NY Mets.

Lazar stands in front of his mom, Monique LaPenna, while brother, Gerry stands in front of dad, Gregg LaPenna. Gregg holds Lazar’s little brother, Blaze. Blaze will play in the Pt. Lookout Little League opener this Saturday, dad will coach. An AED will finally be on hand. (Photo, the LaPenna family)

Lazar’s teammates dedicated the Point Lookout field in their own way. Their salutes to him, messages from the heart, weathered the winter on the dugout fence:

I think Lazar’s death will not be in vain simply because it has caused a focus on a lack of AEDs for kids just like him. His death will stand as a gift to future boys and girls to be safe at home and will help them go on to live full, rich lives. Maybe lives filled with good messages, messages they catch and relay on to others—for the team.

# 9, you will always be remembered. (Photo, LaPenna family)

Perhaps coaches across America might take note of Lazar’s needless death and take action on missing AEDs at all sports venues. If so, we might say Lazar took one for the team, Team America. And maybe sports AEDs could be named—Lazar Lifesavers.

Be well,

Leebythesea

(edit: I originally referred to Bill as Bill Skudin who founded Skudin Surf Camp. He is not a Skudin, he is Bill Bolton and did not start the Skudin Surf Camp, it was started by Will and Cliff Skudin.)

Update: On 5/5/23 Gregg LaPenna informed me that because a rainout was certain on the scheduled Little League opener at Pt. Lookout 4/29/23, it was rescheduled and played 4/27/23, Lazar’s birthday, and the day of the Skudin AED training session. However there still was no AED at the ball field on that opening day. Hopefully, soon. To be continued.

12 replies »

  1. Virginia, What nice words you send my way. Thank you.

    I just came back from a visit with Gregg LaPenna, Lazar’s dad. We spoke about tragedy bringing out goodness in others. Gregg intends to honor his son with goodness and cause change, however he can, to stop these needless deaths. And I know he will.

    We need more more goodness in the world now more than ever, Virginia. Maybe Lazar’s death, in his absolute innocence, was a message for us to unleash the goodness we hold inside. The goodness to cause change in many areas that may keep other innocents alive.

    Again, thank you, Virginia

    Be well,
    Lee

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  2. You’ve sent such an important message! You’re truly a life saving messenger!!!!

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  3. Rich,
    Thanks so much for the correction. I don’t get many needs for correction, but I’m glad to do so. I made edits to the original. But I’m glad you liked the article. Thanks for the feedback.
    Be well,
    Lee

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  4. Correction: The Skudin family are a wonderful part of the community with all the charity and community help. You got it wrong when you identified Bill Bolton as starting Skudin Camps. It was started by Will and Cliff Skudin. Bill is Beth Skudin’s brother and is not a Skudin, but Uncle Bill. Otherwise a good article about the need for AEDs at sport venues.

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  5. Hey Bonnie. Thank you so much for the comment. Yes, Scout is a big hit with the neighborhood. People often ask how she’s doing. Some even ask how I’m doing.😀

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  6. Thank you Again Lee for a beautiful message . My thoughts & Prayers are forever with Lazar & his family .

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  7. HI Lee. Yet another beautiful piece. Have you considered putting ithem all together and publishing a book?
    Bruce D-33

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  8. Lee another wonderful but sad blog. Thank you for your help honoring Lazar and bringing to light the lack of AEDs at our children’s and adult’ s sports venues! Hopefully that will change! God bless you and stay safe Lee!

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