In Memory of Otto Funderburk: ‘O-Bomb’ Spirit Award Announced

Brian Maciolek (left), James Velky, Tess Funderburk, Leigh Funderburk, Lulu Funderburk, Johnny Rogers, Phil Pane and Mark Funderburk are shown at Ewald Field as Johnny is awarded the Otto “O-Bomb” Funderburk Spirit Award.

SOUTHBURY — The Pomperaug Youth Baseball U12 Summer team awarded the first annual Otto “O-Bomb” Funderburk Spirit Award Tuesday, July 1 to Johnny Rogers. The award is in memory of Otto Funderburk, a 13-year-old Southbury resident who passed away December 8, 2018 after a six-month battle with acute myeloid leukemia. Otto was a star center-fielder and pitcher with the Pomperaug Youth Baseball program and was well known in the league for his big hits, winning him the nickname “O-Bomb.”

The annual award is given to a 12U Summer team baseball player who exemplifies Otto’s spirit and characteristics of kindness, courage, passion, friendship and encouragement.

Recipients are awarded with a number 19 Jersey, a player cap with “O-Bomb” embroidered on the side and a commemorative award plaque.

At Ewald Field there will also be a perpetual plaque showcasing the award recipients publicly for the next 19 years.

Johnny is unique because he is also a center-fielder and is the great-grandson of George Ewald, who the Southbury three-diamond baseball complex is named after.

“[He] is a talented baseball player and a leader by example,” Coach Phil Pane said, “He is very coachable and he has the respect of all of his teammates. He exemplifies all of Otto’s traits: friendliness, kindness, positivity and courage.”

Mark Funderburk further encouraged Johnny and the team stating that Otto’s banner at Ewald Field One states, “Friendship begins with a simple game of ball,” and Otto exemplified this by being a friend to anyone that needed someone to sit with at lunch, giving a pat on the back encouraging kids that they’ll get it next time, sharing a joke or a smile and sometimes a silly face.

A game of ball is simply anything that is passed back and forth creating friendships, he continued.

Otto’s spirit of friendship will continue with a Wiffle Ball Tournament at 8 a.m. Saturday, July 20 at Settlers Park in Southbury.

The event is open to all-ages and individuals with awards for top male, female, mix, family and U12 teams.

Additional events will be a Wiffle Ball bat decorating contest, a best dressed team contest and a raffle.

Those interested may register online by July 18 at buytickets.at/ottostrongforever. The fee is $25 per person in teams of four to five players. 

The fund is grateful for sponsors including Pomperaug Youth Baseball, Ferrer Electric, Thule, Victorinox Swiss Army, Julio’s Wood Fired Pizza, Pomperaug Aquatic Club and REVV Fitness.

All sponsor and participant proceeds will benefit the Otto “O-Bomb” Funderburk Fund to support local college-bound students and grants to support joy and comfort to families and children who are enduring cancer care and critical illness. 

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