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Realizing the Dream

Like most 17 year-olds with a passion for baseball, Anthony Sicuranza of Harrington Park, New Jersey, has dreamed of playing the game and rubbing elbows with the best of the best. He has favorite ball players whom he follows and tries to emulate, he plays third base on his community rec team, and he can recite little known facts about the game that many of us have forgotten.

He says that he remembers being a fan of baseball ever since he “saw Wade Boggs ride the horse” after the New York Yankees clinched the 1996 World Series. It was the first time the Bronx Bombers had won the series in nine years. Fittingly, Anthony was five years-old at the time.

Anthony and Mariano Rivera

Like most young players, Anthony has a batting stance that he feels most comfortable using, and he can tick off his All-Time Starting Nine without hesitation. He likes running the bases, “hitting line drives like Paul O’Neill,” and when he pitches he can stare down the batter with a scowl as tough as his all-time favorite athlete, Mariano Rivera.

Anthony recently began his junior year at Northern Valley High School in Old Tappan. He carries “good grades,” and works hard to keep his average up. He made the honor role during his 7th and 8th grade years at Harrington Park School. At his eighth grade graduation he received the award for “Most Inspirational in the School,” a recognition which makes his Mom and Dad, Karyl and Rocco respectively, beam with pride to this day. Clearly, his accomplishments in life make Anthony special and speak for themselves, as Karyl and Rocco (“Rocky” to his friends) will quickly attest.

Rocco, Anthony, and Karyl

They and everyone who knows him will tell you that Anthony’s special qualities transcend the boundaries imposed by his disability and the wheelchair that he depends on for mobility.

Anthony learned to play baseball in the Riveredge Little League but then transferred to the Closter Rec Challenger League. The league plays its games at Memorial Field in Closter, New Jersey, and he is “the only player in a wheelchair. Coach Jim Ottenger will agree that Anthony’s passion for playing and his will to succeed make his job easier. Mainstreamed in high school for all his academic courses, he receives adaptive physical education and, by school law, has an aide with him every day, everywhere he goes.

Can-Do From the Corner

Both parents agree, though, that Anthony is “very independent,” loud testimony to the indomitable spirit that fires his zest for life, and his love for sports. Baseball just happens to be only one of the team sports in which he participates. Although his physical challenges limit his choices, they only heighten his determination to play wherever and however he can. You will not find too many young basketball players who have “shot six three-point baskets in one game,” as did Anthony, let alone from the confines of a wheelchair.

Practically on cue, and with Rocky’s assistance, Anthony demonstrates his favorite batting stance. Dad stands with him in the field too, when it comes to fielding a ground ball and making the clutch throw that nips the runner at 1st. Similarly, he runs the bases with the aid of a teammate. He especially likes “inching off 1st base” to get that all-important advantage when stealing 2nd base. His Dad reminisces about a time when Anthony was younger, and he actually could run the bases under his own power.

At the major league level, Anthony, like any sports minded teenager, has his favorites. His other big interest is collecting sports memorabilia. He and his Dad attend sports memorabilia shows, where they have met many of his favorite sports heroes, as the autographed photos hanging on practically every wall of his house attests. His late grandfather even “resembled Yogi Berra,” as Rocky points out.

Anthony and Kurt Warner

Like any sports fan, he has his opinions and his critiques of how well his favorite players perform. And he’s not shy about telling why a coach’s decision – or indecision – led to the outcome of a game. Should the Mets have traded for this player versus that one? Should the Yankees have brought up this player from the minors and sent that one down for more seasoning?

Should they have been running on the pitch or used the sacrifice bunt to advance the runner? Was it better to pitch out or give the intentional walk? Like any kid who loves the game, Anthony will tell you. He is, after all, just like any other kid, and all sports loving kids are like him.

Interestingly enough, of all his favorite players, he reserves his most pointed criticism for Dad the softball player. It makes sense, really. After all, serious fans save their most critical judgments the players they most admire.

Battery Mates

If Dad does not bend his back when he pitches, Anthony makes it clear what he’s doing wrong. If he rushes his throws or lunges at the plate, Anthony urges him to “calm down.” A true player’s fan, Anthony’s head is always in the game. He can always be heard encouraging his team to “work the count…take the ball the other way…get a good pitch to hit.”

Inspiration Personified

You would not be mistaken to think that Anthony sounds and acts like a coach. He wants very much to “become a manager,” preferably at the high school level. He wants to give to other kids the inspiration that he himself has been so fortunate to have. He wants all kids to know that whatever they dream is within their reach. Anthony knows that in baseball, as in life, realizing our dreams requires patience and persistence; and, the pursuit of one’s dreams is what matters most.

Predictably, he cites as a main goal “to be a great inspiration” to other young people, teaching them to “overcome hurdles.”

If determination and perseverance lead to accomplishment, NJB Magazine knows that Anthony will be achieving personal goals for many years to come. And when he becomes a head coach he will inspire the same in his student athletes. We wish Anthony and his family only the best that life has to offer.

Oh, and by the way, Anthony’s All-Time Starting Nine lines up as follows:

1st Base - Tino Martinez Right Field - Paul O’Neill Pitcher - Mariano Rivera
2nd Base - Rod Carew Center Field - Ken Griffey, Jr. Catcher - Yogi Berra
Shortstop - Derek Jeter Left Field - Jose Canseco  
3rd Base - Cal Ripken   Manager - Tony LaRussa



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