Cozy Grill catcher Mike Neri, a Warwick resident, was jumping up and down.
“This is a really big deal to me,” he said.
Neri, who grew up in Warwick, never played Little League Baseball.
“There were four teams in Warwick, which meant only 48 kids were chosen to play,” he said. “And I wasn’t good enough to make any of the teams. I could never have imagined this experience.”
Fast forward 60-plus years and Neri was good enough to hit .611 and help the Cozy Grill 70-plus softball team win its division at the 2014 Tournament of Champions in Lakeland, Fla.
More than 1,500 softball players, representing 99 teams from 23 states, participated in the event. Only teams that had won SSUSA softball tournaments in the previous year were eligible to compete. Cozy Grill finished the tournament with five wins in six games, eliminating TNT from Las Vegas, Nevada, 10-6 in the semifinal contest, and defeating the Syracuse Cyclones 16-8 for the 70-plus AA Division Tournament of Champions Title.
“It was the best example of teamwork and camaraderie that I have experienced in all my years as manager,” said team manager Emil Notarantonio.
Five of the Cozy Grill players were named to the All-Tournament Team for their offensive and defensive contributions. The list included: Fred Lafazia (.722 batting average), Mike Lyons (.684), Neri, Norm O’Brien (.619) and Dexter Patterson (.667). O’Brien, who starred both at bat and in the field, was named the Tournament MVP.
Pictured, back row: Dexter Patterson, Felix DeCesare, Frank Monti, Mike Lyons, Emil Notarantonio, Jim Woodworth, Mike Neri, Peter Castriotta, Allen Mongeau. Front row: Ken Medeiros, Tom Dorgan, Tim Healey, Norm O’Brien, Fred LaFazia and George St. Vincent. (Submitted photo)