A Panther tradition

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Sandwich Saturday!

Johnston High School baseball players past and present will tell you that’s a tradition unlike any other but just as important as smacking a grand slam or scoring the game-winning run via a suicide squeeze bunt.

Sandwich Saturday has been around Cherry Hill since 1994 when Joe Acciardo became the Panthers baseball boss but – because of its popularity - has since extended into the football season and now comes in form of pasta dinners during the fall.

“We started it as a team building event,” Acciardo was saying Saturday during an inter-squad game at Johnston War Memorial Park. “When we started years ago it was after a week of hard work we would come in on Saturday, have a regular practice then have something to eat together as a team.”

Acciardo, who also coaches football at JHS, said Sandwich Saturday just sort of happened.

“We did it one time and the kids really loved it,” the veteran skipper said. “They started asking if we could do this every week and it is still as popular today as it was back in those years, even though times are a lot different now than they were back in the 1990s.”

Sandwich Saturday, Acciardo wanted it known, “is not about the nutritional value, it’s time spent together with your teammates; It’s great for team bonding … I remind the players all the time you may not think it’s a big deal now, but when you get older try to get a bunch of friends together and go to lunch.”

Acciardo, who had the Panthers sporting a 2-0 record including an upset of defending state champion Coventry until Tuesday’s hard-luck loss to Cranston East, went on, “for over two and a half decades whenever I see a former player or players, the first thing they ask is if we are still doing Sandwich Saturday.”

And that, Acciardo continued while speaking of what actually happens during Sandwich Saturday, even happens now whenever he sees a former football player.

“They all realize now that those may have been some of the best times of their lives,” Acciardo noted. “When the team as a whole had a break in the action and sat together enjoying a sandwich on the baseball field or having pasta during a week night after a practice, they all say they’ll never forget how special those times were.”

His philosophy about Sandwich Saturday – or even those pasta suppers – is simple, “We want to pay like a family, so we have to do what families do. Well, a least that’s what they used to do … a lot has change but not for us. Like a family, we break, bread together.”

Acciardo said the players order what type of sandwich they’d like, the order is placed and delivered top the field about the time practice is complete.

Thus, when asked what type of sandwiches they like, the answers varied from among the seven seniors. Some order chicken parmigiana, others opt for Italian cold cut grinders or what’s on the menu.

As for Acciardo, he has no favorite just as long as there’s a sandwich on Saturday when the Panthers begin building more togetherness and get ready to post their next victory.

In Tuesday’s hard-luck loss, Johnston received a stellar pitching performance from Matt Loffredo who struck out nine Cranston East batters and kept nine hits well-scattered through seven complete innings of work.

Now, those seven JHS seniors – Nate Fortier, Andrew Clesas, Nathaniel Campbell, Matt Loffredo, Alex Rodriguez and Robert Civetti - who would like nothing less than to complete their high school careers with a banner that would make those sandwiches taste terrific no matter what day they staked claim to a crown.

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