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THE SPORTS WIRE: Taking a Look Around Our Region in Sports; Closeups and Views from the Spyglass

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When you have been around long enough, sometimes you feel like you’re in a “Forrest Gump” movie


How’s this? Malden’s longest-playing professional baseball player Carmine Cappuccio’s first manager was Terry Francona… I met him!


By Steve Freker


When you have been around long enough, you have gone to some places, seen some things and met a whole bunch of people. With all the places I have been – especially chasing games all over the country, at all different levels of baseball – I have had so many experiences that sometimes I feel like I was in the “Forrest Gump” movie.

I got another taste of that the other day when I started reading the stories about former Red Sox and present Cleveland Guardians manager Terry Francona and this being his last go-round season. Francona, of course, is expected to be a sure shot Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame inductee as soon as he is eligible, after leading the Red Sox to a pair of World Series Championships (2004, 2007 and almost a third!) and then 10 winning record seasons with the Cleveland Guardians.

Through it all, Francona has battled personal problems (some of which unfairly were made public), lots of health issues and a shocking dismissal by the Sox after a 90-win 2011 season, when it was floated that he had supposedly “lost the clubhouse” due to some tough to deal with, high-paid louts who were masquerading as hardworking major leaguers. As Cleveland’s manager from 2012 to this season, Francona led the Guardians to division titles in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2022, the AL pennant in 2016 and wild card appearances in 2013 and 2020.

Anyways, does anyone realize that Francona first coached in the Chicago White Sox minor league farm system for four seasons from 1992-1995 before he got his first Major League Baseball (MLB) manager’s post with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1997? That’s right. His very first manager’s post in the Minor Leagues was with the South Bend (Ind.) White Sox, Chicago’s Low Single A franchise.

One of Terry “Tito” Francona’s top players on the first team he ever managed? Well, it was none other than Malden High School’s longest-playing professional baseball player in city history and perhaps the best overall athlete to wear a Malden uniform, Carmine Cappuccio.

Cappuccio is the second-highest pro baseball draftee in Malden High history, one of five MLB picks in the Malden glory days of the 1990s. He was selected 260th overall in the 1992 MLB entry draft, the 24th pick in the 9th round by the Chicago White Sox. Cappuccio, a 1988 Malden High graduate and a three-time NCAA Division 2 First Team All-America selectee out of Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., signed for a $15,000 bonus and jumped on a plane to Chicago two days after to meet his coaching staff and join his team.

I decided I, too, would fly to Chicago and try and see Carmine play in his first professional game, since he was the first pro guy I had ever coached, having been a varsity coach alongside Shawn Brickman at Malden High in the Salem Street Slugger’s three wildly successful years with Malden High baseball (1986-1988). Carmine did not get into the season opener, a home game for South Bend, who were listed as the “South Bend White Sox,” but actually went by the “South Bend Silver Sox.” But there he was in Game 2, starting in right field in his first-ever professional baseball game, and I was sitting there about 20 rows from the field in South Bend, Indiana, also home of that little Catholic school next door to the baseball park. What was that name? Oh yeah, Notre Dame!

What a thrill it was to see this 22-year-old kid from Malden getting his first professional swings! Carmine grounded out his first at bat, pulling the ball sharply between the first and second baseman. Second baseman made a pretty good play on the ball. Second at bat? Bingo! Carmine hammered a ball in the gap in right center and it looked like a sure double, but the centerfielder tracked it down and held him to a single. Carmine did take a wide turn, but he did not take the bait as the outfielder fired a seed to second base.

He got lifted for a pinch hitter in the later innings as they used a ton of guys in the game. That’s all right, I got to see his first professional game and his very first professional base hit! Awesome!

I waited for him after the game and who knew? It happened. Carmine actually took a fairly long time to come out afterward and, wouldn’t you know, he was walking out and chatting with his manager at the door, none other than Terry Francona! Carmine saw me standing there and waved me over. “Hey Skip,” Carmine says to the future Hall of Famer, “This is Frek, my high school coach; he came out to see me play this weekend.”

“Nice to meet you, Frek!” Carmine’s soon to be very famous manager said. “We got us a gone one here, he’s got a good eye and great bat. We’re lucky to have him!”

Of course, Carmine was beaming – and so was I – two Malden guys who had no idea we were in the presence of astounding, future greatness: a man who would transform two franchises into bona fide “super”-winners, with two World Series titles in Boston, no less. I knew right away Carmine was in good hands, and I had a great flight back to Logan two days after that.

Carmine would go on to play professional baseball at various levels and in two different countries for the next 11 years, longer than anyone – ever – in Malden High history. Francona, well, he went on and did Hall of Fame level deeds. Good luck in anything you do, and anyplace you go, Tito Francona!

That one night in South Bend 1992, you made Malden High’s best-ever hitter and his high school coach feel like a million bucks!


What a great start for Saugus High Football, as the Sachems roll out to 3-0 mark at Serino Stadium

  Christie Serino is loving this, all of it! The most celebrated athlete in Saugus history was not only the best hockey and baseball player to ever grace the halls of Saugus High – he was also the best football player. We lost him way too soon in 2012, but one of the best moves the town of Saugus ever did was naming the glistening new football stadium in his honor when it opened two years ago.

You see, Christie Serino was all about lots of things, most of them having to do with making his players’ lives better. But he was also about this: winning!! That is why he is looking down on the stadium which bears his name and loving the fact that his Saugus High football team is off to its best start in decades: a perfect 3-0 with more winnable games coming down the pipe in their schedule.

Dare we even say it? Let’s! Are playoffs in the cards around the bend? Why not start the conversation. Five or six wins will get the Sachems there. That’s definitely something that might be ahead, the way they’re playing under Coach Cummings and Coach “Blue.” Why not?

This year’s Sachems are definitely feeling the “Why not us?” vibe, and Coach Serino, somewhere, somehow is coming along for the ride with them this year.

Get out and root for these Sachems tonight against Swampscott at Serino Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. and there’s a lot of homegrown fun to be had!


Revere and Malden joining forces again in second cooperative team: Varsity Golf; Malden freshman Cronin gets big props for sportsmanship

They’ve been together for years in Boys Ice Hockey. Now they are partners in Varsity Golf. The Malden High and Revere High golf teams have merged and the result has been a bunch of early-season wins.

The team’s #1 golfer, junior Chris Macdonald, had been a leader in most of the matches, winning the last four holes of his match against Medford to roar back with a key individual win of the eventual team win. Macdonald is also a key member of the Malden High varsity baseball team in the spring. This past Sunday, he threw five innings of one-hit, zero earned run baseball off the mound for Malden in a Fall Baseball League. Good stuff!

Top golfers on the coop team from Revere High are Jonathan Wells, Ollie Svendsen and Matt LaCroix.

Freshman from Malden High Tommy Cronin got some high marks for sportsmanship from the team’s coaches when it was learned he pointed out an error in the scorecard which gave him an extra point which would have put him over the top for a key individual win and, possibly, a team win. But the error ended giving Cronin and Malden neither.


Everett resident Jake Willcox named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week & Gold Helmet Award Winner

After helping lead the Brown football team to a last-minute win at Bryant in the September 16 season opener, Brown senior quarterback and captain Jake Willcox, an Everett resident, was named the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week, the league announced on Monday.

In addition, he was also one of four Ivy League players (the only offensive player) to be named to the Honor Roll for the FedEx Ground FCS National Awards. This follows his being named a Gold Helmet recipient on Sunday by the New England Football Writers Association.

Willcox is a former Everett High and Milton Academy star quarterback. He led Everett to a perfect 11-0 record and Super Bowl Championship in 2017. He transferred to Milton Academy for his 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Willcox helped power Brown to 428 yards of total offense in a wild, 29-25, season-opening win at Bryant. He finished 36-for-49 for a career-high 357 yards, and tied his career-high with three touchdown passes. It marks the third time in his career he has thrown for three touchdowns. Trailing by three with just under a minute to go, he went 4-for-6 for 76 yards on Brown’s touchdown drive, completing a 30-yard pass to Graham Walker to move the ball to the four-yard line, and then connected with Dillon Golden one play later for a four-yard game-winning strike with 13 seconds left. Earlier in the game, he put Brown on top, 13-0, in the second quarter by scrambling around and finding Wes Rockett for a three-yard touchdown pass.

A lot of Everett and Malden residents were on hand to watch Willcox in person this past weekend in another wild game, a 34-31 loss by Brown, in a night game at venerable Harvard Stadium in Cambridge. The 6-2, 195 Willcox had another huge game, connecting on 36-of-52 passes for 364 yards and 1 TD. His favorite target, Wes Rockett, had 9 receptions for 147 yards.

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