The story of one of the signature community events of the Shelter Island summer began in England.
A boy named David Shillingford was learning to play the game of cricket, and as a child moving constantly due to his father’s British Navy relocations, young David could always pick up a bat with some schoolmates and immediately be welcomed into the group.
He followed his father into national service as a British Army officer, and also kept his connection to cricket, playing for an army team in matches against other regiments.
The annual Shelter Island Cricket Match was launched in the summer of 2012 and has been played every year since. The spark was a casual conversation at a barbecue between Mr. Shillingford and fellow British expat Gareth Jones, and grew into the match that Islanders and visitors alike look forward to today.
The two friends co-founded the Shelter Island Cricket Club to help support the Shelter Island Ambulance Foundation when it became a town department in January 2012. The funds raised at the match promote the recruitment, training and retention of Emergency Medical Services volunteers and to help secure new equipment, primarily ambulances.
The proceeds come mainly from donations by the players and spectators since there is no cost to participate in or attend the match. Thanks to the generosity of local businesses and residents, the Cricket Club has raised over $75,000 for the foundation, according to its website.
This year’s match is scheduled for Saturday, July 29, at 9:30 a.m. — food service begins at 11 — with players advised to arrive no later than 9 a.m.
Mr. Shillingford and his wife, Pom, have been summer residents for the past 12 years, after friends invited them out for a visit and they “fell in love” with the Island, Mr. Shillingford said.
In previous years, Pom has run a fair for kids at the match, playing traditional English games such as “smack-the-rat,” and providing refreshments to participants.
Being friends with EMS volunteers can come in handy, Mr. Shillingford said, recalling an incident a couple of years ago when a player hit a ball awry, striking his own ear. The ambulance quickly took care of the player and transported him to a hospital.
Even in its inaugural year, the event drew a large crowd, raising over $10,000. The Island weather was not kind that day, raining all morning. Despite the unfortunate weather, the enthusiastic participants had a great time and vowed to do it every year, according to Mr. Shillingford.
“On the one hand it was a disaster, but on the other it showed how much people wanted to play,” he said.
While some participants of the match live in the Long Island region, some come from around the world, including the Netherlands, Bangladesh, Canada and New Zealand.
At a mention of Americans’ baffled attitude toward cricket, Mr. Shillingford chuckled and said it’s actually quite similar to baseball; in both games, players hit a ball with a bat to score runs.
The Englishman also spoke of the passion with which many people around the world regard the game. “It’s more than a tradition, it’s almost a religion,” he said, similar to Americans who worship at the church of baseball.
Mr. Shillingford’s favorite aspect of the annual match, in addition to the sharp competition, is how it gives those who don’t live on the Island year-round a chance to give back to a community that constantly welcomes and accommodates them, he said.
Mr. Shillingford expressed gratitude toward the sponsors of the match. SALT Waterfront Bar and Grill donates food and drink, the Island Boatyard provides the field for the match and Shelter Island Party Rental donates two large tents, tables and chairs.
As for the level of skill he expects at this year’s match, Mr. Shillingford smiled and said, “I’d be amazed if anyone has picked up a bat since last year’s match.”
The event is a chance to support an important Island resource while playing a beloved sport, and the friendly competition, he added, is a bonus.
Shelter Island Charity Cricket Match, the Island Boatyard, Saturday, July 29, play begins at 9:30 a.m. Food service begins at 11 a.m.