Editor’s Note: Last Sunday (Oct. 31), 11 of the 12 members of that celebrated 2003 Saugus American Little League team which advanced to the U.S. championship game against Boynton Beach, Fla., at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa., appeared at World Series Park in Saugus. They showed up to help their teammate Dario Pizzano, who organized a fundraiser for multiple sclerosis (Mission Stadiums for Multiple Sclerosis [MS4MS]). Pizzano, whose mother, Traci, has suffered with MS for several years, has been actively involved in fundraising for MS4MS for the last two years. For this week’s edition, we decided to devote “The Advocate Asks” to Saugus’s most famous Little League team, which finished second in the U.S. and fourth in the world during the 2003 Little League World Series. We asked each of the players attending last Sunday’s event to talk about their most memorable moment during that baseball summer of 2003. Joe Kasabuski, who lives in San Diego, was unable to attend the event. Highlights of our interviews follow.
Dario Pizzano, 30, of Hoboken, N.J.: He has completed his 10th season of professional baseball in the Minor Leagues as an outfielder and first baseman and still aspires to make it to the Major Leagues one day. He was a big star on the 2003 Little League World Series team, scoring the winning run in a 14-13 thriller over Richmond, Texas, to advance to the Final Four of the Little League World Series.
“For me, scoring that winning run on Dave Ferreira’s swinging bunt and playing in that incredible game against Texas is the best memory – what an awesome feeling we all shared when we scored the winning run and moved on to the semifinal round. We finished second in the U.S. and fourth in the world. And then there was the whole fun ride of getting there. We were all best friends who enjoyed playing baseball together and hanging out with each other. Living with the guys away from your parents, traveling around different states while playing baseball was pretty darn special. Those were great times – and we’re still very close friends.”
Tyler Grillo, 30, of Saugus: He was an outfielder.
“The best part of it for me was making good friends with all of these guys. It’s crazy years later, how good friends we still are. Great friends till this day.”
Yano Petruzzelli, 30, of Methuen: He was the third baseman on his hometown Little League World Series team. He now runs his family business: New Deal Fruit of Revere. He played for four years on the baseball team at Fisher College in Boston.
“Just the different experiences we shared as teammates – as I get older, it truly resonates that what we did was special. We’re still the same kids, just different responsibilities now. But what we did that summer was remarkable.”
Anthony DiSciscio, 30, of Saugus: He was the first baseman and also played in the outfield.
“The camaraderie and the life experiences with all of these guys – looking back, it’s still something very special to all of us.”
Dave Ferreira, 31, of Saugus: He’s a construction worker of Local 22. He played in the outfield and drove in the winning run on a swinging bunt in a 14-13 win over Richmond, Texas, to advance to the Final Four of the Little League World Series. He went on to play baseball at Fisher College in Boston.
“Just the experience with all these boys – all of us great friends. Everybody still keeps in touch. Gotta remember that the parents supported us so much that summer – the parents not being able to work and traveling with us all summer. But it was definitely worth it.”
Craig Cole, 30, of Saugus: He was the shortstop and pitcher on the Little League World Series team. He played a year of baseball at Bunker Hill Community College. He now works for the state Department of Revenue.
“All of the fun I had with my friends and just being with my friends every day – we were close friends. I just wish it never ended. And today I’ve got two beautiful little boys.”
Tyler Calla, 30 of Winchester: He was the catcher on the Little League World Series team. He is a Saugus 6thGrade STEM teacher and was recently named the varsity golf coach at Saugus Middle-High School. He played two years of baseball at Wheaton College.
“It was really a dream come true. Everybody had a job to do. Everybody worked their butts off. We had three good coaches. It was a recipe for a really good Little League team.”
Ryan Bateman, 31, of Saugus: He was a utility player. He works at a cafe and medical facility.
“Having a great time with my friends and traveling around the country and meeting a lot of cool people.”
Matt Muldoon, 30, of Plymouth: He was a pitcher and played first base. He went on to be a designated hitter and first baseman on the baseball team at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, N.H. He is now an account manager for a software company.
“Just how fun it was and playing baseball with some real close friends and not knowing how close you would get to the championship. There is something special about a summer with your best friends – and we continue to enjoy it. I’m glad to be able to be here with the team – this time for Dario and his mom at this MS4MS event. She was a big part of that summer.”
Rob Rochenski, of Amesbury: He was manager of the Saugus Little League World Series team. He’s a carpenter with a wife and three children. His dad still lives in Saugus.
“My most memorable moment: I never realized how good we were until it was over. Every round that we made it to, we were the best in that round until we got to the semifinals. We finished fourth in the world and second in the United States. But we beat every team in the U.S. We beat the Boynton Beach, Fla., team earlier. But they beat us in the semifinals. Before we got to the Little League World Series, we were 18-1. It was just a great ride, and we haven’t missed a beat. We continue to stay in touch. I get invited to weddings and I’m seeing them raise their own children now. That’s pretty cool.”
Mark Sacco, 30, of Saugus: He played first base and pitched on the Saugus Little League World Series team. He’s now a construction worker.
“The chemistry of everyone working together – it was a great crew. We all played baseball together for years past. And we all gelled and had a hell of a season. We were a hell of a good team.”
Charlie Bilton, of Rowley: He was a coach on the Little League World Series team. A 1967 Saugus High School graduate, he has been coaching baseball for 53 years.
“As a unit, they were outstanding. Individually, they weren’t. But they put in the time. All they wanted to do was keep playing baseball. We pushed them really hard, and they were willing to put the work in. They had a dream that summer. It started out with 8,000 teams that summer, and we got down to the final two in the U.S. We had Boynton Beach in pool play, but they beat in the final [U.S.]. It was just an amazing experience for everyone involved. There were 40,000 people in the stands for the games. And there were buses of people coming down from Saugus.”
Mike Scuzzarella, 31, of Saugus: He was a pitcher and played shortstop on the Saugus Little League World Series team. He’s an engineer and has been coaching high school hockey and freshman high school baseball.
“I’ll always remember the baseball part of it. But it was special with that group of guys. It was an experience that I will never forget. We’ll go our own separate ways, but we’ll always have that experience to look back on ’til the day we die. For us, a lot of the experiences we shared after the World Series was special. We came home on Aug. 25 and on Aug. 27; we were throwing out the first pitch at Fenway Park. We got to meet Nomar [Garciaparra], Manny [Ramirez], David Ortiz and all of the other Red Sox. Best days of my life … except for getting married to my wife Raylyn and having a little girl. My daughter Olivia is one year old.”