Sports column by Bill Bostic
Sports have a way when you least expect it to unfold a series of events that can reshape your world for a day, a week or maybe a lifetime.
For me, watching Jeff Gordon make a daring, dangerous move at Daytona to win did that. For sure, Jack Nicklaus playing a back nine for the ages at The Masters in 1986 at age 46 to win will forever be an inspiration to me. And, I’m still shaking my head over Penn State’s football team coming out of nowhere to grab the Big 10 championship last season.
These events were performed on a national and in some cases a worldwide stage and witnessed by millions. They were great moments in sports. But none of them inspired me to wax poetic at 3:30 in the morning like the baseball game I witnessed last night at an outpost in Lebanon County that features a chicken-processing plant across from the ballfield.
The baseball team sponsored by the fine folks associated with Linglestown’s American Legion Post 272 is making a run for a regional tournament title from the losers’ bracket. They’ve faced elimination the last four games and are still fighting.
Here’s what you need to understand: tournaments like this one that require playing nine-inning games on consecutive days are often won by the team with the deepest pitching staff. This kind of schedule is a nightmare for coaches who don’t have a long roster of arms in their stable.
Linglestown’s first pick to start last night’s contest against the undefeated York County champs from Pleasureville wasn’t ready to go, so the coaches decided to give the ball to the team’s closer, Mario Cattabiani, minutes before the first pitch.
This set the stage for a David and Goliath story to be written by Cattabiani, Linglestown’s smallest player and probably the smallest player by a bunch in the tournament.
Little guys aren’t supposed throw 116 pitches and turn in a complete-game victory, allowing only one earned run and giving up one walk with five strikeouts.
But without fanfare, that’s just what Cattabiani did. Lacking speed, he used his wit developed over 15 years of playing youth baseball at Koons Park to get batters to swing at the “junk” he was offering up. And, he helped himself by making four tremendous defensive plays on bunts and slow rollers.
Cattabiani’s gutty performance and classy Facebook Live post-game interview stirred my soul. It made me realize that my decision a few months ago to revive Linglestown Gazette was without a doubt the right thing to do.
Jeff Gordon, Jack Nicklaus, and Penn State football are OK in a pinch. But little guys bringing giants to their knees in rural Pennsylvania trumps them all.
Mario Cattabiani and the entire Linglestown Legion squad, thanks for giving me a moment that blew my socks off!
Thanks go out to Linglstown Legion coach Barry Shipley for helping with this column. Photo submitted by Mario F. Cattabiani.