Bob Furlong has a lot of people in his corner in his fight against leukemia. That much was evident Sunday on Bob Furlong Day when admirers and friends came to Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton to pay tribute to Furlong and the work he has done for the club as general manager.
If there is a Mr. Tomcat, it would be Furlong, who has been with the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League club since its inception in 2009.
Because of his health issues, Furlong is sharing the GM role this year with Patti White. This past winter Furlong was diagnosed with leukemia in addition to having kidney trouble. White said he has been in and out of hospitals.
“He is absolutely battling his toughest opponent,” White said before Sunday’s pregame ceremony. “He’s an amazingly strong man. His heart, as well all know, … is so strong.”
Furlong was in for a surprise when he exited his car before the Tomcats’ doubleheader against the North Fork Ospreys and was told he was wanted on the field. The man known for his love of baseball and sharp sense of humor, stood with his wife, Shirley, as speaker after speaker lauded him for his work with the Tomcats.
Furlong did not speak during the ceremony, but immediately after throwing the first pitch, he spoke of others, such as sponsors, interns and host families, who have helped the organization. “I’m humbled,” he told The Riverhead News-Review. “I’ve always thought of myself as just being part of a larger group, a team, people just trying to make this possible. I’m happy that people feel that I’ve made somewhat of a difference, and I have a lot of gratitude for their feeling that way.”
Asked how he was feeling, Furlong replied: “I have my good days and my bad days. Today is a good day. I’ve got some struggles, but my family’s very supportive and I feel like we’re doing the things we need to do. We’re hopeful that things are going to work out.”
Furlong has attended a few games this summer. Tomcats manager Alex Nikolic recalled Furlong’s presence for the season opener. “He already had a round of chemo, and he was the life of the party the bus ride back,” said Nikolic.
The Tomcats were swept in Sunday’s doubleheader, which Furlong watched in its entirety.
“Everyone wanted to win for Bob,” Tomcats second baseman Asher Lee-Tyson said. “We know that he is going through a real tough time, so we wanted today to be good for him and it’s kind of unfortunate that we couldn’t do better.”
One of the more touching tributes came from HCBL president Henry Bramwell, whose son, Max, lost his fight with leukemia.
“I’m cheering Bob on,” Bramwell said during the ceremony. “He’s going to take this one on and he’s going to win it for my son, Max, so Godspeed, Bob.”