LINCOLN --- It was six years ago today when Mike Monteleone, a 14-year-old freshman on the Lincoln High junior varsity baseball team, tragically died of cardiac arrest during his team’s afternoon practice.
Monteleone’s untimely passing not only affected the community and the high school, it also hit home at Lincoln Middle School, where Monteleone’s sister, Jenna, was a sixth-grade student.
The seniors on this year’s baseball and softball teams at Lincoln High were in Jenna’s class, and with only a few weeks left in their high school careers, two of those 12th graders decided to put together a fun-filled event to raise money for the Michael J. Monteleone Memorial Fund.
Alyssa McCoart, the ace pitcher of the softball team, and Tyler Santaniello, a standout infielder for the baseball team, are putting the finishing touches on a co-ed fastball softball game that will feature players from both teams and take place Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Saylesville Elementary School complex.
“No one has really done a fundraiser like this since Mike’s death,” remarked McCoart, who has one of her teammates, second baseman Barbara Jackson, as her chief assistant. “So I figured this is our senior year and I wanted to do something special to let people know that we still have Mike on our mind.”
“It’s cool that our class is doing this,” said Santaniello. “I feel like we’re the last class that’s connected to Mike. All the classes below us are friends with Jenna, but they really didn’t know Mike like a lot of us did.”
This game has been the talk in the Lincoln High hallways during the past few weeks, and it’s received the blessing of their head coaches, softball coach Jon Bruckner and baseball coach Ed Hunt. But with each team facing some tough tests over the next few days after this game, there will be a few stipulations.
A softer, spongier ball, the one the softball team used during indoor practices in the early part of the season, will be used. Each batter will start off with a 1-and-1 count, and the boys will be using wooden bats instead of aluminum.
“(The coaches) wanted it to be a slowpitch game, but I thought it would be a lot more interesting if it was fastpitch,” noted McCoart. “They want to make sure everyone is safe, and I don’t think that’s going to be a problem, but they like the whole event and they think it’s a good idea.”
An interesting aspect to the game will be the baseball players’ at-bats against the pitching of McCoart, an All-State pitcher a season ago who will take the mound for one team, and sophomore Lindsay Mayer, a sophomore shortstop who could be the No. 1 pitcher for a lot of Division I teams, on the other.
“We’re going to settle the score,” noted Santaniello. “Everyone’s been talking about whether baseball or softball (pitching) is harder to hit, so we’ll find out for sure. I’ve never actually stood up to the plate against fastpitch softball, but everyone’s looking forward to it. We’re all amped. It’s going to be fun.”
While McCoart came up with the idea for the game, Santaniello had the task of dividing 30 players into two co-ed teams, and he successfully put together two evenly-matched sides that should make for a very competitive game.
Santaniello and McCoart will play for the ‘White’ team, while Mayer will be on the ‘Red’ squad that also contains All-State baseball player Ryan O’Dell and Jackson.
Each side will also start a catcher from the baseball team, and while McCoart will have Joe Hamilton as a batterymate, Mayer will be firing strikes to Cody Phillips.
The rest of the ‘White’ team will feature Steve Marcello, Zach Perry, Brendan Reddington, Emma Hart, Joe Yankee, Nick Zammarelli, Kyle Jackson, Jenna Gamage, Allie Dzialo, Dory Enright, Amanda Daniels, and Keila Brito.
The ‘Red’ team has Matt Menucci, Chelsea Brennan, Emily Bouthillette, Max Blais, Matt Sorkin, Marissa Walsh, Catie Chatowsky, Sarah Albanese, Alicia Leclerc, Dan Cameron, and Casie Beauchemin rounding out its roster.
Both teams will don special T-shirts donated by Elmwood Sporting Goods, and taking a page from Major League Baseball’s ‘Jackie Robinson Day’ last month, one team will wear No. 8 on its backs, while the other will have No. 17 as a tribute to Montelone, who wore both uniform numbers.
Steve Conti and Nathan Duquette, who graduated from Lincoln in 2009 and were two of Monteleone’s friends, will also serve as head coaches for the teams, and Bruckner, Hunt, and assistant baseball coach Sean Cavanaugh will be the umpires.
Tickets for the game are $5 for students and $10 for adults, and there will be a concession stand and a 50-50 raffle, with a winner announced midway through the game.
McCoart and Santaniello are hoping to raise at least $2,000 for the memorial fund, and noted that each player will be responsible for selling at least $40 worth of tickets to the game. If each player reaches their mark and the raffle is a success, they think they should be able to reach their goal.
“It’s going to be a great game,” said McCoart. “We appreciate the permission we got from the town, Wesley (United Methodist) Church for giving us a parking permit, and our coaches and Paul Prachniak from the Parks and Rec. Department for their help and support.
“It will be a fun night and it’s for a very good cause, so we hope we get a big crowd to come watch the game.”