Tony McNaboe is used to playing in front of big crowds. As the drummer in Maine’s own Rustic Overtones, he’s been entertaining Maine music-goers for more than a decade.

In August, he’ll have a chance to exhibit more than his musical talent, when he and his teammates play in the Travis Roy Foundation’s annual Wiffle Ball Tournament in Vermont.

They’ll be the first Maine team to participate in the tournament, which began in 2002 and will be held at Little Fenway, a replica of the Boston Red Sox’ ballpark.

“I’m probably more nervous about playing in this tournament than any show we’ve done in recent memory,” McNaboe said. “Travis likes to give me the ‘stick to music’ comment and insult my athletic prowess whenever he gets the chance. So I’m making it a point to get in top shape for this.”

The tournament will host 24 teams from all over New England and raise money for the foundation, established in 1997. That was the year when Roy, 11 seconds into his first shift for the Boston University hockey team, suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed.

The foundation helps fund research on spinal cord injuries, as well as providing medical support for individuals with spinal injuries.

Roy, 35, said the event raised more than $231,000 last year.

“It is by far the biggest fundraiser we have,” Roy said. “I am very lucky that the foundation is the beneficiary of this event.”

This year, Roy, who lives in Boston but grew up in Yarmouth, is looking forward to having the first team from Maine compete in the tournament. “I’m really excited to have a team from Maine. I’ll always be a Mainer. And I have a lot of great connections there.”

One of those connections is McNaboe. “I’ve known Travis since youth hockey back in second and third grade. We all grew up playing hockey together,” McNaboe said.

McNaboe, along with several other childhood friends, is assembling a team for the tournament. The team name is the South Street Hard Shells, which is named after the street Roy grew up on.

“We’re going in expecting a really competitive tournament,” McNaboe said.

Jon Roods, McNaboe’s friend and fellow band member, agrees.

“Yeah, I’m a really good first baseman,” Roods said with a straight face.

Roy says that the event was never his idea. “A gentleman had some kids who played youth hockey and read my book ‘Eleven Seconds.’ He had built a miniature replica of Fenway Park in Jericho, Vt., and he thought they could do a fundraiser for my foundation.”

The gentleman Roy refers to is Jericho resident Pat O’Connor. After reading Roy’s book, O’Connor knew he wanted to find a way to contribute. Having already hosted a successful fundraiser at Little Fenway for the victims of 9/11, he figured it might be a great venue for another charity event.

“When I met Travis, I realized, ‘Wow, if I could do something as small as hold this annual event, with Travis at the helm, there were going to be a lot of people whose lives could be touched in amazing ways,’ ” O’Connor said.

The team from Maine has already raised $3,000 for the fundraiser but is hoping to top $10,000, which, according to McNaboe, will be a challenge.

“The fundraising is harder now because people aren’t as familiar with Travis’ story,” he said. “If I had been going out doing the fundraising 10 years ago, all I would have to say is, ‘Travis Roy,’ and people would be like, ‘All right, sign me up.’“

But he and his teammates are committed to Roy’s cause, and they hope that others will remember the struggle that thousands of paralysis victims go through every day.

“If people can recall the compassion they felt for Travis and his family Every year, there are 10,000 other people (paralysis victims) who didn’t get that attention. So hopefully people can see that they’re sending the money to help people with just as compelling a story as Travis had,” McNaboe said.

Team members were shaking off the rust in a practice last week, but they are confident they will be in game shape by Aug. 6, when the tournament begins. McNaboe says he is looking forward to this chance to get together with old friends and contribute to a cause he is very passionate about.

“Probably the biggest thing I learned from the accident was not to take the time with people who you love for granted,” he said. “It had a huge impact on me, and it’s been humbling to watch the progress Travis has made since.”

Staff Writer Max Monks can be contacted at 791-6345 or at:

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