By GARY RIANNA
I was thrilled with the turnout we had on a short three-day notice ... we had about 55 people, including players and family members. The response was very special and was a testament to baseball in Johnston.
The 2017 Senior League RI State Championship team was a special group ... starting with my two coaches Bob Civetti and Mike Castelli, they were key with practices, game preparation, strategies and everything in between ... couldn’t have pulled that season off without them.
The parents, who sacrificed many days and nights of practices that were scheduled for two hours and more than not, extended to 2 1/2 to three hours.
Then there were the players.
This group of players, who many are still very close friends today, were the epitome of the word “Team”. This team was not the fastest, was not best hitting, or the best pitching ... however this team had something more than any other team I’ve been associated with, and that was heart.
This team didn’t know what the word quit even meant ... during this magical season, winning games at their last at bats along with walk-off victories was quite common ... including the walk off to win the RI State Championship.
These players have transformed from very good baseball players to young men starting the next chapter of their lives.
The 2019 Junior League RI State Championship team, while a different style of baseball, was also a very special group of players...
Again, it always starts with coaching ...Gary Salzillo and Zach Rianna were instrumental in the success of this team to say the least. Coach Gary was all for the kids...always made sure, whether on the field or off the field, all were taken care of ... including myself ... he’d always calm me down when needed.
Coach Zach, being only a few years older than most of the players, closed the gap and worked effortlessly tweaking the specifics that are required to get to this level.
Again, parents were unbelievable throughout the entire run of All-Stars, including about 70 Rhode Islanders making the trip to New Jersey for regionals.
The players ... saying they were the good is an understatement.
While we didn’t start out perfect, things quickly turned for the better.
In the very first inning of our very first game we found ourselves losing 7-0. I assured them that we will have seven innings to score and we went on to win 12-9, outscoring our opponent 12-2 over the remaining innings.
This team never fell behind in a game after that first inning and never lost a game. In the RI State Tournament, we beat each district champion...
Going into the 2019 Junior All-Star Tournament, all I heard was we were the favorite to win it all. Well, they were right.
Lastly, both the Senior 2017 RI State Champs and the Junior 2019 RI State Champs were both very special in their own way. For me personally, I will never forget my all star parents, my coaches and most of all, my players. Thank you all for the opportunity as it was a privilege and an honor to be associated with all of you.
Members of the 2017 championship team included: Robert Civetti, David Iannuccilli, Miguel Perez, Justin Salvatore, Luke Vincent, Joseph Popolla, Tyler Roche, Ryan Allen, Rudy Landin, Matt Loffredo, Michael Castelli, Josh Tonucci, Alex Rodriguez and Eric O’Connor.