Broward High School Baseball
Martinez Baseball Academy

St. Thomas Aquinas Rallies To Assist Nova Titans’ Field Repairs

Volunteers from Nova and St. Thomas work to clean fallen trees from Hurricane Irma at the Nova Titans building that houses the concession and locker rooms.

Nova Titans manager Pat McQuaid would never have imagined the inspirational boost he looked up and saw arriving at the field early Saturday morning. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, there was some severe damage suffered to Pat McQuaid Field at Doug Amos Stadium. The Titans had reached out to the baseball community to assist with the cleanup efforts Saturday, and St. Thomas Aquinas manager Troy Cameron and the entire Raiders program were among the roughly 100 volunteers.

The damage is significant. Some trees were downed just outside the stadium, and several trees were uprooted and fell softly onto the building that houses the locker rooms and concession stand. The scoreboard suffered lots of wind damage that ripped sections down, and other billboards honoring former players came crashing down altogether.

Plenty of progress was achieved on Saturday. Volunteers removed poles and parts of the scoreboard and they dug up the two ficus trees and got them off the building. Many hands make light work, but who would have thought that lots of those hands would belong to the rival St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders?

“I said, ‘Wow, that is special’, Pat McQuaid said. “The kids were surprised and in awe. Troy Cameron needs to be commended for bringing his kids out here and helping. St. Thomas came out, the Nova Southeastern coaching staff was out here and it was pretty good.”

There is no bigger high school baseball rivalry in Broward County than between Nova and St. Thomas. But they all found themselves on the same side up against Hurricane Irma, and the Raiders were fortunate not to suffer much damage to their facility. Following a team breakfast together Saturday morning, Coach Cameron let them know the team activity they were needed for.

“It was a good opportunity to be rivals on the field but in times like this it is more important to do the right thing,” Cameron said. “They are a bunch of good kids and they realized the importance of them needing our help over there. Pat was surprised and taken back a little bit, but I respect the heck out of Pat. He has done a lot for high school baseball. Them being our rivals, I think the rivalry is where it needs to be on the field, but off the field it was the least we could do.”

The Titans’ concession and locker rooms were fortunate to survive with no damage.

Doug Amos Stadium has come together over many years thanks to donations and assistance from people across the Broward baseball community. It has hosted many epic games over the years, and has also hosted numerous HSBN events. It is a place that really matters to the team, and the Titans work hard taking care of it. The Raiders respected the rivalry by knowing when to put it aside and help with that care.

“That’s the way the rivalry should be,” McQuaid said. “You compete on the field but when you get off the field you help each other when you need it. That’s what high school sports should be, and it is a lot bigger than the game. I think Troy showed that by bringing his kids out. It was really special.”

There is still plenty of work to be done. The scoreboard needs further repairs and there is much necessary landscaping needed around the uprooted ficus trees.

Nor are the Titans the only program hit hard by Irma. Miami Brito had its batting cage severely damaged, as strong winds bent the poles back and caused it to collapse in on itself. The Panthers do not have a home field, and the cages were the only facilities they had on campus.

In the Space Coast, Palm Bay also suffered some tough damage to its hitting turtle.

“Even though we thought we had secured it, the winds were just too strong here,” Palm Bay manager Sean Comfort said. “It threw our turtle into the outside fence, shredding it completely. We also had minor damage to the batting cage screen, windscreen and dugouts. However, the turtle is the most significant.”

Palm Bay lost its hitting turtle when strong winds tore it loose.

Cypress Bay also had its batting cage collapse, although the worst loss the team suffered came days before the storm when junior Andrew Blardonis’ father passed away suddenly following surgery complications. The team rallied together and went to the family’s home and secured it with plywood and other necessities in preparation of the hurricane. They have continued to stay by the Blardonis family’s side to provide comfort and assistance through this tough ordeal.

“What I witnessed my players do for a teammate that suffered a major tragedy while under stress of the storm is why I am so fortunate to coach the young men that I do,” Cypress Bay manager Paul Liotti said.

Many other programs were affected to some degree, and those hit the hardest may still not be able to reach the rest of the baseball community. HSBN has begun to reach out to all the programs across the state to ensure all that can be done will be done. More volunteers will likely be needed, and St. Thomas has reminded us all that even your biggest rival may be the one that needs the most help.

Some of us have been affected worse than others, and the future may not be bright for those hit the hardest. As everyone tries to return life to normal, opportunity may arise to lift up someone else’s spirit when they desperately need it. There is no minimum that someone can do to help, and you never know when you may get the chance to do something truly heroic.

The Apopka Blue Darters were also out in full force assisting with hurricane cleanups.

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