Newsome High School faced East Bay High School in the first Banana Ball vs. Breast Cancer charity game in November.

Newsome High School head baseball coach Richard Rohrberg found out his wife, Anna, had breast cancer in July. While meeting with other baseball teams, he was discussing the diagnosis with his fellow coaches and contemplated creating a tournament to raise money for breast cancer awareness.

Rohrberg and his team are fans of the Savannah Bananas, an exhibition baseball team with a focus on entertainment, fans and comedy from Georgia. Newsome’s coach turned to ‘Banana Ball’ for his fundraiser.

On November 11, Newsome High School hosted the first annual Banana Ball vs. Breast Cancer games. East Bay, Durant and Sumner high schools participated in the Saturday morning charity event to support Rohrberg and his wife.

The event was especially important for Rohrberg’s wife, who was in attendance, because she was not able to see the team for two months after receiving her diagnosis.

“She’s going through radiation right now. She’s tired. … But she’s fighting through it. I try to do a lot of stuff to make her laugh,” Rohrberg said.

The Banana Ball games certainly gave her something to laugh about. The teams participated in mid-inning dance battles, costumes and skits to bring a lighthearted and fun perspective on raising awareness.

“It was fun. … The idea was to make it fan-friendly,” Rohrberg said. “… This was good. It got people involved, dancing and singing, so it was fun.”

Rohrberg also said prompting the group of high school boys to talk about breast cancer and raise awareness was a successful part of the event.

Newsome infielder Leonardo Astacio, a cancer survivor, said the cause is especially important to him.

“It feels great to see cancer awareness being supported. It’s very important to me and my family,” he said. “And I was very proud of my team.”

Newsome helped Rohrberg raise around $2,500 for the donation through admissions costs, donations and the 50/50 raffle for fans. The proceeds benefited the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, where Anna is being treated.

Rohrberg also said he plans to make the charity Banana Ball game an annual event.

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Lily Belcher
Lily Belcher is a writer for the Osprey Observer. She started as an intern in the summer of 2020 and has continued to write for the Osprey Observer since completing her internship. Lily is majoring in mass communications at the University of South Florida and is a staff writer for the university’s paper, The Oracle. She enjoys writing about local nonprofit organizations and community role models who have made an impact on her hometown.