By: John Knebels
RADNOR, PA – Sometimes, one play exemplifies how teammates feel about one of their own.
In a Catholic League battle at Archbishop Carroll on April 23, Archbishop Wood fell behind by 3-0 and appeared sort of listless. Then the Vikings rallied in the top of the fourth, and with his team trailing by 3-2, Antonio Rossillo– wearing uniform number 10 – stepped to the plate.
With the Wood dugout now abuzz and exhorting the senior catcher to deliver – “Let’s go, Tone . . . Hey, wait for yours, One Oooo . . . C’mon, kid . . . C’mon, Toooonnne” – Rossillo drilled the first pitch to left field for a two-run single, giving the Vikings a lead they would not relinquish in an ultimate 7-3 victory.
After being replaced by junior Matt Murphy as a courtesy runner, Rossillo entered the far end of the team’s dugout along first base. By the time he reached the opposite side to place his helmet in a cubicle, Rossillo was low-fived, fist-pumped, body pushed, and shoulder patted.
Similar to his countless contributions during his four-year varsity career, which included playing catcher this year for the first time since eighth grade, Mr. Clutch had once again delivered. Except for a slight smile, Rossillo, described by almost everyone who knows him as humble and unassuming, appeared to take his accomplishment completely in stride.
“I would like to think I do thrive in those situations,” said Rossillo. “However, there isn’t one person on my team that I wouldn’t put up there in one of those situations.”
Wood coach Jim DiGuiseppe, Jr. has seen virtually every type of player during his long coaching career. DiGuiseppe, Jr. said Rossillo “exudes a quiet confidence that you want to rub off on the other players.”
It is rare, DiGuiseppe, Jr. said, when any athlete contributes on varsity for four years. But Rossillo, said his coach, is in no way a typical high school baseball player.
“He is a leader in so many ways,” said DiGuiseppe, Jr. “What he represents – his maturity, humility, and hard work – is infectious. His teammates look up to him, and he quietly goes about his business.
“His parents (Alfio and Rita) did a fantastic job of instilling in their son core values; that is evident in the way he conducts himself.”
At 9-3 with one game remaining – a very important home tilt May 13 against Cardinal O’Hara – the Vikings could finish the regular season as high as second or as low as fifth. After starting with two wins, Wood lost to Father Judge, 5-3. They then won five straight before being stunned by Devon Prep, 4-3. After winning two more, they were edged by first-place La Salle, 3-1.
Archbishop Wood senior catcher Antonio Rossillo - Photo by Francesca Rossillo
For seniors such as Rossillo, anything less than carrying home a Catholic League title plaque would be viewed as major disappointment.
“Winning a championship is our number one goal,” said Rossillo. “That’s what you work for all season long.”
Fellow senior Jack Colyar, a standout baseball pitcher and football quarterback who will play baseball at Duke University next year, effusively lauded his battery mate.
“Tony is a great catcher but an even better teammate,” said Colyar. “He always brings positive energy around the team and everyone else feeds off of that. Behind the plate, he does a great job of calming the pitching staff down and helping us out.”
On December 6, Rossillo’s world was rocked when his father Alfio died after a courageous battle with cancer. He was 45. A beloved man by family and friends, Alfio Rossillo was a guiding force behind his only son’s obsession with baseball.
“My dad introduced me into baseball and I just stuck with it,” said Rossillo. “He obviously meant a lot to me. He was at every game, and it’s tough not seeing him there, but it does motivate me to do it for him.”
Rossillo will take his game to the collegiate level at Kutztown University, where he will play at first base, third base, outfield, catcher, or anywhere else his coach prefers. One of the reasons he chose Kutztown is because of its location, about 70 miles from Warminster.
Antonio Rossillo makes a play at the plate for the Vikings - Photo by Francesca Rossillo
Antonio Rossillo will be playing at Kutztown University next season - Photo by Francesca Rossillo
“It is important to be close to home,” said Rossillo. “I want my family to able to see some of my games.”
His family and countless friends undoubtedly want to see his games, too.
(Contact John Knebels at Jknebels@gmail.com or on twitter @johnknebels.)