It was the culmination of a season for a small suburban town baseball team that performed to the highest level on a national-like stage.
It came in the most unusual of places, a.k.a. the Johnston Municipal Courthouse, where the Town Council, led by Mayor Joseph Polisena, paid tribute to the Little League’s recently crowned Junior State Champion All-Stars.
The ceremony was held Tuesday evening prior to the JTC’s meeting and featured three impressive presentations; one from Council President Robert V. Russo, a second by Councilman Robert Civetti and the finale by Polisena who was smiling from ear-to-ear and perhaps the night’s biggest cheerleader.
“We’re always proud of our youth whenever they accomplish a milestone like this,” Polisena offered. “Like many of our GREAT athletic teams in the past, this one was also special and I’m thrilled for the goys, their parents and our coaches.”
Russo kicked off the mini-celebration by congratulating the recently crowned JLL’s Junior All-Stars who were ages 13-14 and brought home the prestigious state championship then headed to Freehbold, NJ to participate in the Eastern Regional Tournament.
“We didn’t fare that well in New Jersey,” Gary Rianna, the team’s manager, told an attentive standing room only audience. “We were 1-2 but our boys played with class, character and special sportsmanship and received all kinds of accolades from tournament officials.”
One, in particular, was Michael LaCava, who had directed the Eastern Regional tournament for 15 years who heaped words of praise upon the Johnston squad during a private, post-game meeting after Johnston was eliminated from the 11-team double elimination tourney.
Once Rianna finished relating the team’s touching story with the tourney director, Polisena led the loud round of applause that filled the spacious court room.
The presentation ceremony was, as someone suggested later, “a terrific tribute to a great group of teenagers who enjoy playing our national pastime.”
Civetti led off by announcing each player and coach’s name then handing a special citation folder to Polisena, who also shook the hand of each recipient.
The citations, which Civetti introduced and were signed by each of the five Town Council members read, in part, “In recognition of your winning the 2019 Rhode Island Baseball Junior League State Championship, the Johnston Town Council would like to recognize and congratulate you for your achievement and expresses the hope for continued success.”
Civetti, meanwhile, is no stranger to athletic prowess. He enjoyed as athletic as a standout football and baseball player at Johnston High and has been part of the JLL for nearly decades and counting – 38 to be precise. As he said Monday night, “This type of ceremony is always special and example of the great teams our town has had through the years.”
Thus, the list of JLL Junior State Champs includes: Dylan Martins, Chris Civetti, Nate Lewis, Mike Salzillo, Derek Salvatore, Aidan McGarry, Jonah Pecchia, Dylan Guernon, Armani Arias and Mike LaFlamme. Rianna’s coaches were Gary Salzillo and Zach Rianna.
In addition to Civetti and Russo, the Council Members who also took part in the ceremony were: Joseph Polisena Jr., Linda Folcarelli and David Santilli Jr.