By Bob Behre
Ben Fonseca has given so much of his life to the game of baseball and truly to young ball players trying to make their way in the game that giving back to Ben has been the easy part.
Fonseca, who has been battling a serious illness for nearly a year, was honored as part of a fundraising effort Wednesday night at TD Bank Ballpark, home of the Somerset Patriots. Fonseca is a former Patriots coach and, more recently, a coach with Diamond Nation’s Diamond Jacks program in Flemington.
Many of Ben’s former players and, indeed, much of the Diamond Jacks program were on hand to honor and support their coach and hope they could lift his spirits as he battles a debilitating disease. Of course, it was Fonseca who brought joy to those who came out to see him in his most natural environment
The Diamond Jacks program alone raised $6,000 to offset Fonseca’s exorbitant medical bills while the efforts of the Somerset Patriots and a GoFundMe page set up by his family has contributed mightily to the Fonseca cause. A 50/50 raffle during the Patriots 5-0 victory on Wednesday night garnered, roughly, another $2,500.
The joint goal of Diamond Nation and the Somerset Patriots is to raise $13,000. Fonseca's uniform number with the Patriots was 13.
The Diamond Nation and Somerset Patriots families have been instrumental in the fight to help Fonseca and his family. Ben and his wife, Tonilynn, and their three boys, Ben IV (13), Mason (10) and Sage (6) are in the middle of an uphill battle fighting this aggressive disease.
Ben is fighting a very progressive form of systemic scleroderma, which is an autoimmune disorder. The condition is such that Ben’s immune system is attacking his body. Healthy tissue is destroyed because the immune system mistakenly thinks its a foreign substance or infection. The cause is unknown and there is no current cure.
Fonseca coached the Patriots from 2000-’02 and worked as the team’s Director of Baseball Operations. He was an instructor at Jack Cust Baseball Academy and Diamond Nation from 2004-’09 before returning to the baseball academy in 2015. He’s since coached several Diamond Jacks teams.
Fonseca is being treated aggressively with monthly chemo infusions in addition to oral meds. The disease is attacking his gastrointestinal system. It has slowed his digestive system and he’s unable to absorb nutrients properly. As a result, Ben has suffered rapid weight loss, dropping 115 pounds since his diagnosis last summer. The difference in the photos of Ben before his diagnosis and today are stark but Ben has an amazing fight in him that was reflective in the glow he exhibited Wednesday night at TD Bank Ballpark.
This comment on the GoFundMe page says it all. “Ben has spent his entire adult life helping others. He has coached baseball as high as the professional level and all the way down to the youth level, and everywhere in between. He has positively impacted the lives of hundreds. Coaches don’t stay in baseball to get rich. They stay in it for the gratification of being an influence on the lives of their players.”
Ben has certainly done that.
Go to https://www.gofundme.com/helpcoachben and make a donation of any size to help Ben Fonseca and his family with their staggering medical expenses.