by Michael Leonard
Cuyahoga Falls -- Since 2006, Walsh Jesuit's Showcase for the Cure has brought together some of Northeast Ohio's best high school baseball prospects while raising money to help fight cancer.
The ninth annual Showcase turned out to be the most successful in both regards.
Walsh hosted 124 prospects June 18 to display their talents for about group of about 50 college baseball scouts.
More importantly, the Showcase raised $40,000 for cancer research. According to Walsh Jesuit baseball coach Chris Kaczmar, $40,000 is a new one-year record donation for the Showcase and puts Walsh's total donation over the nine-year life of the Showcase at $200,000.
This year's charity recipient was the Ohio State University's James Medical Center and the Orthopedic Sarcoma Research Development Fund.
The charity was selected by The Crawford Family in honor of Chad Crawford. Crawford was a longtime supporter of Walsh baseball who died in September 2013 due to sarcoma. Crawford received treatment at the James Medical Center.
Kaczmar paid tribute to Crawford when he addressed the prospects.
"Every conversation with Chad began with an enormous bear hug," Kaczmar said. "He lived every moment with an exclamation point. If you remember nothing else from today … I want you to remember the exclamation points."
While Kaczmar noted he was hoping the Showcase would surpass the $200,000 mark, he said the real purpose for the Showcase was to give the Walsh baseball community a chance to give back.
"That's a mark that we were striving for," Kaczmar said. "This puts in all in perspective for us. It keeps us humble. It keeps us grounded."
Chad's wife, Shawn Crawford, was among those who accepted the check for $40,000. She noted it was "amazing" to have the event raise so much.
"Chad wouldn't have had it any other way," Crawford said. "We have a lot of love and support from the Walsh Jesuit family."
Dr. Tom Scharschmidt, an orthopedic oncologist at the James Medical Center, also helped accept the check. Scharschmidt said the money will be particularly useful, as he noted sarcoma is a rare form of cancer.
"It's unbelievable," Scharschmidt said. "This money will do a lot to help us research new treatments for patients."
In addition to the actual showcase for prospects, Walsh hosted a baseball camp for youth players, a silent auction and a keynote speaker for the prospects. 2012 Walsh Jesuit graduate Zack Leonatti performed One Republic's "I Lived" at the ceremony.
This year's keynote speaker was Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals, who making his second appearance at the Showcase.
"I have a lot respect for coach Kaczmar," Beals said. "Walsh Jesuit and I go way back to when I was at Kent State. Also, the cause of the event is very worthy. I lost my father to cancer when I was in high school."
Beals also noted its was important for him to support the fight against cancer, as Ohio State freshman baseball player Zach Farmer recently was diagnosed with leukemia and is being treated at the James Cancer Hospital.
"He's doing pretty well," Beals said. "He's been declared in remission. It's a long process, but he's winning."
Showcase chairman Gary Minorik said, once the James Medical Center was designated as a charity, he had a chance to visit the James. Minorik said the hospital does great work, as he noted its helped one of the Showcase's prospects -- Dugan Smith of Fostoria -- beat the disease.
Minorik paid tribute to his staff for helping the Showcase become such a success.
"I have about a 50-person staff that does a lot of great work," Minorik said. "I'm just the lucky guy that gets to lead it."