North Babylon man goes to bat for Guinness record
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Mike Filippone's first attempt at the Guinness World Record for marathon baseball batting ended at 2:30 one morning at Phelps Lane Park in North Babylon. After 15 1/2 hours of hitting, blood seeped through his batting gloves. Paramedics had to put him on oxygen.
He'd been hit repeatedly by pitches that day in 2009. His neck ached from looking out of his batting stance. He had a split toenail from a ball he'd fouled off his foot in hour four. He became dehydrated in the 95-degree summer heat. His hands tingled for days.
On top of that, he'd failed to set the record, falling short of the 24-hour threshold Guinness sets for such endurance feats. He did, however, raise more than $5,000 for Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, Queens, by charging people $20 for a bucket of balls to pitch to him.
Now, the truck driver, former Lindenhurst High School third baseman and current president of the North Babylon Youth League is planning another record try.
It is scheduled to begin 8 a.m. Saturday at the park and will benefit the hospital and the Dan Gambardella Memorial Fund, an annual scholarship awarded in honor of a friend of Filippone's from North Babylon who was killed by a drunken driver last year.
“We'll see,“ said Filippone's wife, Geraldine, earlier this week, assessing his chances of setting the record. She hedged because she is a reasonable woman and her husband's determination to swing at pitches every eight seconds or so for 24 hours is arguably insane; and because Filippone, 52, was hospitalized last month with a raging fever.
On the other hand, she said, “He's always got something crazy, some plan, and I never think he's going to do it, but he does.“
Consider the replica of the Green Monster of Boston's Fenway Park in their North Babylon home: “Twenty-two years later, it's still on my basement wall.“
Or the backyard deck: “I said our deck is fine the way it is,“ but he labored for a year and built something “bigger and grander than anything I'd ever dreamed of.“
But 10,839 balls in a day can test any man.
“Your mind wanders all the time, and your reaction time is not that good,“ he said. “These people aren't pro pitchers, and sometimes you don't want to move. Sometimes you turn your shoulder and just get hit. It's weird.“
Giving up was wrenching. He stepped out of the batter's box and cried. “I was naive enough to think I could blow right through this and really do it,“ he said.
He is not eager for more pain. But he and Gambardella had been partners and rivals on the Phelps Lane fields as youth league coaches, proud dads when their sons made JV. Gambardella had even come out to cheer him during his first swing at establishing the record.
Setting the record and doing some good seemed like a good way for Filippone to honor his friend. “I would never do it again for any other reason,“ Filippone said, before going out to practice.
Guinness does not specify how often Filippone must swing, only that there can be no “obvious long lags between swings/pitches.“