To commemorate the 10th annual Justin Sheftel Memorial Softball Tournament, the Sheftel family and the tournament committee wanted to do something special.
Or bring in someone special.
Hall of Fame pitcher Steve Carlton will be on hand at Parkland High School on June 21 to sign autographs and help to put the spotlight on an event that has raised more than $175,000 over the past eight years.
The proceeds provide scholarships to two deserving Parkland seniors and assist local organizations such as the Miracle League of the Lehigh Valley, the Jewish Community Center camps, the Allentown School District's "Drive" middle school baseball program, Cystic Fibrosis, Second Harvest, the Lehigh Valley Autistic Foundation and many more.
It's a wonderful event to remember a wonderful young man, who left us much, much too soon.
Justin Sheftel had just graduated from Parkland in 2005 when he was killed by a drunk driver while crossing Ocean Highway in Ocean City, Md. The first memorial tournament was arranged just three weeks after Justin's death as a way to honor his life.
The tournament has expanded in many ways since that first one, but its essence has remained the same and that's to provide friends and family an opportunity to come together for a day of camaraderie and fun and also to teach and remind the public about the dangers of underage drinking and driving under the influence.
It truly has become one of the special events on the local sports calendar and Carlton's appearance figures to make this year's tournament the best ever.
"We are thrilled that Steve Carlton will be attending to sign autographs and be part of the tournament," Linda Sheftel, Justin's mother, said.
Carlton's credentials, of course, are among the best in baseball history.
Nicknamed "Lefty," Carlton pitched in the big leagues from 1965 to 1988, compiling a record of 329-244 with 4,136 strikeouts — the second most of any lefty and the fourth-most of any pitcher in baseball history.
Although he pitched for the Cardinals, Giants, White Sox, Indians and Twins, he is best known as the best pitcher in Phillies history, winning the National League Cy Young Award in 1972, 1977, 1980, 1982 while taking the mound at Veterans Stadium.
He led the Phillies to their first-ever World Series championship in 1980.
Who knows if he'll throw out the first pitch at the Sheftel softball tournament? It would be a guaranteed strike.
Remember, the softball tournament, which features 22 teams and more than 300 participants, is just one facet of what's going on that day. There's a mock tail competition sponsored by Red Robin that features special, non-alcoholic drinks from four mixologists, a home run derby, a raffle, activities for kids, food, and many other things.
To get involved in the tournament as a sponsor or in some other way, contact Linda Sheftel at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 610-432-6353.
THE REED EXPRESS TO CANTON
With last week's news that the Bills and Giants will be playing in the Hall of Fame Game in Canton on Aug. 3, one day after Dieruff High and Kutztown University product Andre Reed is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, lots of Lehigh Valley football fans are planning to go to witness Reed's big day for themselves.
One option is a bus trip being run by Mike Stahl. The trip includes two nights lodging about 25 minutes from Canton, a ticket to the enshrinement ceremony, admission to the Hall of Fame, snacks and beverages and more.