by Peter Coyle
While attending a funeral service at St. Louis Church in Webster on Monday, March 10th, I got to see my first ever baseball coach as the celebrant of the Mass. My coach, the Reverend Larry Esposito, was the lead priest for his aunt and Godmother, Margaret Ceppetelli, who passed away the previous Thursday. Esposito recalled many fond memories about his Godmother and the Bigelow Road section of Webster he grew up in. It was one of those moments in life when you say to yourself, ”where has the time gone.”
Esposito coached the Webster Police minor league team in 1960. I was seven years old and it was my first taste of organized sports. At our first practice, Esposito kindly told me to put the “tools of ignorance” on and get behind home plate. Actually, my father told me later that day when I came home that the catching gear was the “tools of ignorance.” Old school slang. I had no clue what a catcher was supposed to do other than “put the stuff on” and get behind home plate. “Put the stuff on” followed me right up to my last college game at Nichols College in 1976 at the age of 22. That’s 16 years of “putting the stuff on” because of Esposito’s wisdom in 1960. I loved the position because you are part of the game on every pitch and you can see the whole field all the time. In baseball, catchers are always “putting the stuff on.” Is there any other way to say it? “Can you please dress yourself as a catcher?” No, that isn’t going to work. “Put the stuff on means baseball business is about to start.”
Jog your memories a bit and think back to your minor and Little League days. Honestly, who are the kids who are delegated to the position of catcher? Yes, the big overweight kids. That was me. I had quite the appetite in my youth. My experience with coach Esposito was great and I have to thank him for encouraging me at such a young and impressionable age. Esposito had a calmness about himself that all my teammates could sense. He was the perfect first coach to have. He wasn’t a parent and volunteered his services because he had a sincere passion for coaching kids.
As the celebration of Margaret Ceppetelli went on, I reflected on my experiences and all my coaches over the years. Esposito planted an important seed in 1960 with a bunch of seven year olds. We had a lot of fun and respected our coach. Father Esposito now serves the parish of the Good Shepherd in Linwood as their pastor.
There is another priest in the Whitinsville community who has a coaching degree and that is Father Jim Carmody who is the pastor at St. Peter’s Parish. Father Carmody is one of the good guys also and I got to spend a lot of time with him when he coached basketball and baseball at St. Peter’s in Worcester. Father Carmody was an assistant coach on the 1977 Division 1 State Championship baseball team at St. Peter’s. I had the junior varsity team that year and got to join the varsity on their run in the tournament. Rich Gedman and JP Ricciardi were the headliners on that team. Gedman had a ten year career with the Red Sox while Ricciardi went on to become the General Manager for the Toronto Blue Jays. Father Carmody was the glue that held that team together. His insight to the personalities on the team taught me a great lesson in coaching. He was a great motivator who was a positive influence to the team. ”Leave your ego at the door” is one of the “pearls” Father Carmody believed in. Both Esposito and Carmody were big influences on a lot of athletes and are now leaders of faith in their communities.
Good Luck to all the spring sport’s teams that will begin on St. Patrick’s Day. Spring tryout week is a sign that spring is right around the corner.
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