By Rick Cawley
For the Review
When the known universe caved in back in March from the Covid-19 pandemic and the remainder of the school year went up in smoke, the chances of high school athletes donning their school uniforms again became a distant thought. The Roman Catholic baseball team, which many had considered a front runner for a Catholic League title this Spring, slowly resigned to chalking up the 2020 season as a proverbial “what-if.”
As weeks turned into months, the senior athletes began focusing their energies and focus on their upcoming college destinations for the fall and pretty much put the 2020 high school year in the rear view mirror.
And yet, lo and behold, there they were on the field last weekend competing in a BSE sponsored tournament at the Hagy’s Mill field wearing their Roman uniforms. The weekend before the team, known as the Roman Boys, took the title in a U-19 tournament in Reading.
The idea for getting the team back on the field was the brainchild of 21st Ward coach, Lou Fresta. Lou, whose son Louis lost out on his senior season this Spring, wanted to give the Roman players a chance to close out their Roman careers on the field.
So, he decided on a whim to rally the troops, get them back onboard, and enter them in weekend baseball tournaments to “get them back out on the field to so that they could play together again.” He contacted Roman senior players from this year’s would-be season and added to some 21st Ward grown players from the 2018 and 2019 classes who began pulling out their uniforms from the back of the closet. He also made a point to get present Roman Head Coach Bob Hill to support the endeavor.
Some of the 2020 crew who have participated so far include: Jason Kelly, Gaeten Grandelli, Alex Singer, Louis Fresta, Bob Buckley, and CJ Mole. Filling out the squad of recent Roman baseball alum comprise Anthony LoMastro, Brian Williams, Dylan Powlus, Sean Flanagan, Cole Quigley, and Jimmy Ferioli. PW”s Steve Gallagher and SCH’s Bobby Markey have also pitched in for the cause.
For logistical purposes, the Roman Boys are officially listed in tournament lineups as the Roxborough Bandits since the Bandits have been a registered franchise in years past and Fresta wanted to utilize the longstanding community baseball trademark.
From an athletic standpoint, it’s not the Catholic League. Nothing can take the place of a season that most players feel was taken away from them. As Class of 2020 Alex Singer, who will be playing for Gwynedd Mercy next spring puts it, “it’s not the same, but it’s better than nothing.” But the competitive level is first rate and the Roman Boys have had to play some older and more experienced opponents. They have more than held their own on the field, but more importantly, the players have gotten a taste of what their last season together might have felt like.
After a 4-3 victory to close out the tournament on Sunday, Coach Fresta was optimistic about the possibility of more appearances down the road, but added that the players will have “put out some bucks of their own” to help pay their share of the entrance fees.
Given the amount of parents that have come out to support the young men as they try to create some sentimental closure to their high school experience, chipping in a few dollars shouldn’t be a problem.