Fundraiser for local youth team is a grand slam


Roughly 300 people lined up to enter Sapiens Physical Therapy in Oyster Bay on Nov. 29, although they weren’t there for rehabilitation or conditioning. They were there to support a local baseball team and to meet Daniel Vogelbach of the New York Mets.

The first baseman, formerly from the Pittsburgh Pirates, joined the Mets at the end of 2022. After a strong showing with the Mets in the second half of last season, he has quickly become a fan favorite.

Vogelbach took time out of his off-season training to stop by Oyster Bay to support the Blue Collar Bulldogs, a local youth travel team.

The Blue Collar Bulldogs is made up of 11-year olds from Oyster Bay, East Norwich, Sea Cliff, and Glen Head. They’ve been playing together for the last three years, mainly in the Tri-State Area.

The young team is preparing for a tournament in Aberdeen, MD, taking place on the Fourth of July weekend in 2023. The tournament, known as The Ripken Experience, is organized every year by Carl Ripken Jr., a Hall of Fame shortstop who played for the Baltimore Orioles.

Jim Werner, one of the four Bulldogs coaches and the father of team member Colin, said he and the other fathers brainstormed ways to raise money for the team for the expenses that will be incurred for the trip. They also wanted to benefit the community.

Werner, who is also board president for the Youth & Family Counseling Agency of Oyster Bay-East Norwich, explained that their goal was to raise money for the team, while also teaching the young players the importance of community service.

“We try to instill an element of community service because they’ve always been good to us, so that goes both ways,” Werner said. “We’re always thankful to the community for their support.”

Edward Kull, the father of Bulldog Lukas, is also the athletic director for Fordham University. He was able to bring some star power to the fundraiser when he enticed Vogelbach to come to Oyster Bay free of charge to sign baseball memorabilia and be photographed.

Kull’s brother-in-law, Julian Samodulski, owner of Sapiens Physical Therapy, provided the venue for the event. He said he was happy to support his nephew’s team, especially if it gave the community a chance to meet a New York sports icon.

“We were happy to see how many people showed up to see him and also support the team,” Samodulski said. “I think it was successful on both ends, you know. People were satisfied, and the team got great exposure.”

Fans came from all over Long Island to meet Vogelbach, with some waiting outside for nearly a half hour before Vogelbach even arrived. Andrew Garnett, a resident of East Norwich, was one of them.

“I’m a huge Mets fan. I heard about this through the Oyster-East Norwich Parents Facebook group, and I was so excited,” Garnett said. “It’s great that we also get to help a local team and meet Vogelbach.”

According to attendees, Vogelbach couldn’t have been nicer, taking photos and signing everything from baseballs to jerseys to bobbleheads.

The Bulldogs were able to reach their goal for the fundraiser, although they plan to have several more before they can afford to take the trip to Maryland. Anyone interested in donating to the team can do so using Venmo at @bulldogs-ripken.