One of the first stories I ever wrote for the Beacon was about Joe Mazzulla signing a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at West Virginia University. That was a while ago now, but in the meantime, I haven’t been to any more of those kinds of ceremonies.
It could be that I’m just not invited. And sometimes there isn’t a ceremony for a signing. But in general, there just aren’t all that many players making the leap from Rhode Island High School sports to major college sports.
That’s what makes the ceremony Hendricken held on Wednesday so remarkable.
If there’s an exception to the Rhode Island athletes in college rule, it’s baseball. From Anthony Meo to Dan Gamache to Evan Marzilli, it seems there’s somebody every year making the jump.
This year, there are six of them. From one school. They all made their commitments official on Wednesday.
Say what you want about Hendricken drawing from all over the state, but even in that case, it’s still a major accomplishment. And you’ve got to give the players credit. That’s what struck me at Wednesday’s event – not just that six players from one school are heading to the next level, but that six players worked hard enough to make it possible.
It’s a rare feat.
They all came to Hendricken with baseball dreams, and they started living them pretty quickly. One, catcher Billy Walker, even played varsity baseball as a freshman. Bobby Indeglia, Reed Gamache, Tom Pannone and Rich Bacon started making waves as sophomores. P.J. Murray had an impact as a junior.
You could see when they were sophomores that they had big things ahead of them, but as all of them have learned, those big things are never a guarantee. Plenty of promising sophomores never see their careers take off like they hoped. Every athlete thinks they’re going to make it to the next level. Few actually get there.
These six have made it happen.
I asked Walker if it’s hard to believe that he’ll be playing for Wake Forest next year, in one of the nation’s top baseball conferences.
Does he ever pinch himself?
“You can’t,” he said. “You just have to keep working because there’s always going to be somebody working harder than you.”
That’s a pretty good attitude for a high-school athlete to have. It’s what separates the dreamers from the doers, and it’s impressive that six players from one team have taken the attitude to heart. They’re not all going big-time and chasing Major League dreams, but they’re all achieving a goal. They’ll be playing baseball in college.
Good for them.
There was a lot of pride in the room on Wednesday, at the table where the players set, at the podium where Hendricken officials spoke and in the audience, where parents and siblings beamed.
It was a big day, and it was something special. It made me hope for a few more ceremonies.
But I know I won’t find many like that one.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.