No, that wasn’t Tommy John on the mound Saturday night, although Derek Lamacchia might have born some resemblance to the former major league pitcher at times.
Perhaps inspired by a visit from John, Lamacchia and Brian Tardif of the North Fork Ospreys combined for a four-hit shutout of the Riverhead Tomcats in an Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League game at Jean W. Cochran Park in Peconic. Ospreys catcher Rocco Gondek blasted a grand slam — his second home run in as many games — to break open the contest, making the score 7-0 in the fourth inning before North Fork finished with a 10-0 win.
“It’s definitely inspiring,” Lamacchia said of meeting John. “Seeing him in the dugout is pretty cool, seeing a guy like him around the field. It’s not every day that you get an opportunity to pick at his brain, so it was good hearing his words of wisdom, listening to what he had to say.”
Ospreys Manager Shawn Epidendio certainly liked what he saw from Lamacchia. “He was pounding the zone, and I couldn’t ask for more out of him,” Epidendio said. “He was throwing a lot of strikes, and that’s always a key to success.”
When it comes to pitching success, few could match the exploits of John, who won 288 games over the course of his 26-year career in the major leagues. John, who has been engaged as a goodwill ambassador of sorts by Hamptons Collegiate Baseball, has been visiting East End fields this weekend, making appearances at league games. He spoke with players and fans at Saturday’s game, threw out the ceremonial first pitch, signed autographs and sat on the Ospreys’ bench for the first half inning. He also spoke about the surgical procedure known as Tommy John surgery that helped extend his playing career. James Stone, an Ospreys pitcher who had the operation in which a ligament in the elbow is replaced with a tendon from elsewhere in the body, showed John his scars.
Gondek, who was born the last year John played in the majors, will mark his 21st birthday on Monday. He began celebrating early with his well-struck, bases-loaded blast over the fence in left-center field.
“I just got a good pitch to hit,” Gondek said of his third career grand slam.
Aside from Tardif, Gondek is the Ospreys’ only returning player from their inaugural 2009 season, and Epidendio is pleased to be managing him again.
“It’s great to have Rock back,” Epidendio said. “He’s a great kid and he works hard. He wants to get better, and that’s what we want out here. That’s why I’m here. … He’s the type of guy who will play anywhere for you. He will do whatever you ask him. He wants to succeed, and he’s willing to work hard to get that.”
Speaking of his return to the Ospreys, Gondek, whose college team is Sacred Heart, said: “I’m more comfortable than I was last year. I love it out here. It’s a lot of fun, a very nice area. I love the water, so it’s basically the best thing I could be doing right now.”
Also coming through with big bats for the Ospreys, who gained their fourth win in six games, were Sebastian Grazziani and Robert Kelly. They both went 3 for 4. Grazziani, who doubled twice, knocked in three runs, and Kelly had two runs batted in. North Fork’s leadoff hitter, Billy Ferriter, added a pair of hits (one being a double), walked twice and scored three runs as the Ospreys mounted a 15-hit attack.
North Fork received an encouraging pitching performance from Lamacchia, who evened his record at 1-1. Lamacchia, a right-hander from Quinnipiac, allowed two hits over six innings. He struck out seven and walked two.
Tardif, a lefty who lives in Cutchogue and plays for C.W. Post, handled the final three innings, striking out five and walking one.
The Tomcats, who dropped their fourth straight game after a season-opening win over North Fork, received their hits — all singles — from Eric Romano, Kevin Curtis, Cody Slaughter and Mike Lonsdale.
But this night clearly belonged to the Ospreys.
“Right now we’re throwing the ball pretty well,” Epidendio said. “We’re getting some good starting pitching, which is what you need, and right now we’re swinging the bats.”