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Sep 08

A Memory That Never Fades-Sports Talk With Anthony Bonelli

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My Fastball popped the catcher’s glove like Randy Johnson’s, my Curveball danced like Barry Zito’s, I was a little upset with my Changeup, because I could not get a feel for it. The manager, I don’t remember who it was, maybe Bobby Valentine, my favorite Mets’ Manager, stepped out of the dugout and made the call to the bullpen, it was my time. The bullpen door opened, I don’t remember what song I came on to the field to. I walked across the infield and stepped onto the Shea Stadium mound. I warmed-up, I felt great, the batter stepped into the batter’s box and I woke up it was all a dream.

In May 2007, Mike Frassinelli, who was a writer for The Star-Ledger at the time, wanted to do a feature story on me detailing my work as a Student Manager with the Warren Hills High School Baseball Program. It was my senior year, so Mike wanted to do a special story. He came to see me in action at a game versus Immaculata. His questions were mostly about my work with the team, what I did, how I helped, what will I remember about my time working with the team, but his last question was the one that stuck with me. He asked me if I had ever dreamed of playing the game of baseball, even though I couldn’t grab a bat, put on a baseball glove, or hit a home run, my response was it’s funny you should say that, because one time I dreamt that I was pitching for the New York Mets, my favorite team. He asked me to describe the dream. At the time, I really didn’t have a clear understanding of the dream, still trying to wrap my head around what I dreamt. Seven years later, I am finally able to detail the dream, what you read above was my dream.

In June of that year, I graduated from Warren Hills, after 12 years of hard work I had finally accomplished one of my many goals. About a week later we had a celebration so that everyone who had gotten me where I was at that point could relish in my success just like I was. Days before the celebration, my family and I went out to dinner, my brother Jonathan told me that he didn’t have my gift yet, but it was coming. I said sure sure thanks a lot. Stop for a minute, and think what do high school graduates get as a gift for their graduation, maybe luggage as they go off to college, maybe a card with some money, or maybe even a car. With age, all those material things tend to fade and show their age or in the case of the money, already been spent. It is now July my brother still hasn’t given me my gift. Every time he came over to the house, I said Jon thanks for my gift he said no problem.

August was slowly dwindling away, still no gift from my brother, I can only imagine what my parents were thinking they later told me that they would secretly ask my brother what was going on and he would say I don’t have any money right now sorry

A few days before I entered my first semester of college, my brother came over after work, he walked into my room, and said "I have your graduation gift", I said, "sure you do", he said "you’re throwing out the first pitch at a Mets’ game" I said "what, how!" He responded, "Don’t worry about it, pick a day it’s yours."

Saturday, September 8, 2007 was a very beautiful day at what legendary Mets’ Radio Announcer Bob Murphy used to call "Big Shea", with the outline of what would become Citi Field over the Shea Stadium wall, and a sun that shined as bright as I’ve ever seen it, I was about to realize my dream that I never thought could ever become a reality. Like my graduation party, there were special people there to help me celebrate this moment I would never forget, my mom, my dad, my aunt, my grandmother, my best friend in high school, who was a pitcher on the baseball team, my high school baseball coach, and a man who made it all possible.
As I waited in the tunnel near the field, my brother was given the ball that I would be throwing out, he said, here you go and put the ball in my hand which I never let go until I threw the pitch. The question that everybody had was, what pitch I was going to throw, my Fastball, Curveball, or Changeup. My response was Fastball as I put my index and middle finger around the seams. As I sat waiting to go out onto the field I said to myself, this is unreal.

It was finally time to realize my dream. I went out onto the field I looked up at the crowd, and it brought me to tears, because this was exactly what I dreamt. As I prepared to throw the pitch, Mets’ Bench Coach Sandy Alomar Sr came over to me and said, "Hello young man, I am going to be your catcher."

Public Address Announcer, Alex Anthony said, "Anthony it’s your pitch." As my brother guided my arm I felt the ball leave my hand, and I said, "I did it!" The unreal experience was not yet over, during The National Anthem I sat 2 feet away from the players that I watched and admired every day. Once The National Anthem was over, my dad turned me around, and we started to head to our seats. Before we left the field Mets’ Manager Willie Randolph stopped me and said, "I love your hat," I had the 2006 National League East Championship hat on he then said, "Let’s go win another one."

Tom Glavine was on the mound for the Mets that day as they took on the Houston Astros. Glavine did his best to make that day even more special for me, as he took a perfect game into the sixth inning, what would have been the first in Mets’ history. The Mets won that day to make September 8, 2007 even more special.

Even though the Mets made history for the wrong reasons that year, as they lost a seven-game division lead with only 17 games left to play and missed the playoffs, there is no question in my mind what I will remember from that year.

The purpose of me writing this is, not only so that people close to me can remember that day and smile, but also to say thank you to my brother. Over the years I have had several memorable experiences both professionally and personally I’ve interviewed Hall of Famers, such as Alonzo Mourning, Rick Pitino, and Gary Williams, just to name a few. I’ve also created a bond with my brother’s favorite football player Michael Irvin, he is still jealous. All those experiences were great and I will always remember them, but the day I graced the Shea Stadium field will always be my favorite moment.