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Summer Brings Our 8th Annual Neurosurgery Charity Softball Tournament

Summer is here and we are once again hosting the Annual Neurosurgery Charity Softball Tournament.

This event is in it’s eighth year and with twenty four teams involved, we should see over five hundred people together in Central Park on June 4th, a day that Mayor Bloomberg has declared, “Neurosurgery Charity Softball Tournament Day” in the City of New York.

“It’s amazing how quickly and to what extent this event has grown,” says tournament founder Dr. Rick Komotar, “especially when you consider how it all started.”

In 2003, as a first year neurosurgery intern, Dr. Komotar, who played college baseball at Duke University, organized a local baseball tournament; nothing official, just friends from local neurosurgery programs getting together to play ball on a Sunday.

Fields in Central Park are typically impossible to reserve without a few years notice, but as luck would have it, Rick’s initial phone call to the Parks Department was answered by Lissette Moreno, who also happened to work part-time at Columbia University Medical Center as a phlebotomist.  Thus began the inaugural event in Central Park, including only 4 teams — NYU, Cornell, Mt. Sinai and Columbia.

New York Giant Brandon Jacob (left) & Dr. Rick Komotar (with the check)

It turned out to be a great day and the following year, Penn, Harvard, Hopkins, and Yale were invited.  At that point, with neurosurgeons from 8 high-profile medical centers playing softball in Central Park, the event, says Komotar, “just had the ring of a charity event.”

Komotar says, “We were having drinks with Diana Kuen and some friends; talking about how to expand the tournament and, kind of in jest, she said, ‘you should get the Yankees to sponsor you.’

Taking a leap of faith, Komotar put in a cold call to Yankee stadium, asking to speak with George Steinbrenner.  He says, “after two hours and being transferred about a thousand times, I finally got on the phone with Steinbrenner’s office in Tampa.  When told about the pediatric charity, Steinbrenner’s assistant immediately said “Mr. Steinbrenner loves children!” and put George on the phone.  “Next thing I know I’m speaking with The Boss and there is a $10,000 check in the mail from the Yankees,” said Komotar.

That cold call was the defining moment. “Once the Yankees were in, it just took off,” says Komotar. “Next thing, Jerry Seinfeld donated, then A-Rod, etc. That first year, we raised over $50,000, which was completely unexpected.”

Over the next few years, the Annual Neurosurgery Charity Softball Tournament rapidly evolved into a national and international competition, with twenty-two medical institutions in the United States as well as the University of Toronto set to play in 2011.  Media coverage and celebrity involvement has paralleled this growth, with ABC and ESPN becoming involved, and guest appearances by Brandon Jacobs of the New York Giants, Jeremy Schaap of ESPN, Andy Samberg of Saturday Night Live, actors Jason Schwartzman and Danny Masterson, as well as rock star Julian Casablancas. The tournament continues to be sponsored by the Yankees, private donors, and corporations, raising about $300,000 since its inception.

“The growth of the tournament is really a credit to Diana Kuen, Greta Perovic, and Columbia University, who help run it.  Greta and Diana are incredible organizers and by now they have the event on cruise control. They deserve all the props because they have really helped this thing grow and run smoothly every year.”  Komotar also said “It’s a tribute to the competition, camaraderie, and dedication of participating programs, particularly traveling teams.”

Columbia: 2005 Champs

This year, the event will be held on June 4 and twenty two different Neurosurgery departments from across the country and Canada will be competing. They are:  Alabama • Albert Einstein • Barrow • Colorado • Columbia• Cornell/MSK • Dartmouth • Duke • Emory • Florida • Harvard • Johns Hopkins • Miami • Mt. Sinai • Northwestern • NYU • Penn • Penn State • Pittsburgh • Thomas Jefferson • Toronto • Utah

This year we will also have an ABC/CBS team that will play in the NYC division, and ESPN news anchor Jeremy Schaap will again show his support.

This year our charitable donations have expanded to include the American Association of Neurosurgey’s Neurosurgery Research and Education Foundation (NREF) as well as the Columbia University Brain Tumor Research Fund.

Come join us in Central Park, June 4th, 2011 from 9:00AM – 7:00PM. We would love your support, not only for a great cause but we’ll take any home field advantage we can get!!

You can learn more about the event by visiting www.neurocharitysoftball.org

Check us out on facebook too.

Read about last year’s event: Columbia Hosts 7th Annual Charity Softball Tournament

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