By Steve Svetovich
After 22 hours of labor, a baby was born in the spring of 1996.
It didn’t take too long for the baby to start talking and walking.
“Hold em!” he would shout to his mom, dad, or grandparents when he wanted to be held.
His first words were mommy and daddy, but as he gazed in great interest at a gigantic baseball player on the TV set hitting a mammoth home run, a third word came out, “McGwire.”
And that began a passion for the game of baseball. By the time the toddler was two, he had his first glove.
He would run out to the back yard of his West Scranton home and grab his dad. “Pitch to me, dad. Pitch to me.”
And the line drives came screaming off the whiffle ball bat.
He hit and played catch for hours. He would have his dad throw the ball far away from him, so he could dive and make spectacular catches. Soon that translated onto the baseball field with a hard ball and bat.
He started a 17-year summer run (and still counting) when he joined the t-ball league with his dad coaching in Green Ridge.
Then came Pony League and Farm League with his dad still coaching in Green Ridge.
With his dad coaching, his Farm League team went undefeated winning the first Light Tournament in Green Ridge. The team came back from an 8-1 deficit and scored 8 runs to the bottom of the final inning to win the game, 9-8. He started the rally.
Then he took his talents to West Scranton where he played one more year of Farm League at Sloan and made the Little League all-star team at age nine. It was the first of eight consecutive all-star appearances right through Teener League.
He became a shortstop and lead off hitter during his three years of Sloan Little League. His favorite team was the New York Yankees and favorite player Derek Jeter. He always wore No. 2 and still does to this day.
After two years at Robert Morris Elementary School in Green Ridge, he transferred to Frances Willard in West Scranton through the fifth grade.
The little boy had another passion, Subway hoagies. It’s a good bet every Subway shop in the valley knew him. He became known as “the Ranch Boy ” due to his penchant for always requesting “lots of ranch sauce” on his hoagies.
He loved going with his mom to visit his pop pop and nana in the country in Harding.
And he developed a strong bond with his pop and late Yiayia (Greek word for grandmother) in Green Ridge. He visited with them almost daily and remains close to his grandfather (pop) to this day.
Basketball also became a passion. He played in several biddy basketball leagues in Green Ridge, North Scranton and West Scranton. His favorite was Holy Rosary in North Scranton where he played for 8 years leading his team to a championship in his last game.
He also helped lead his Saint Anne’s biddy basketball team to a title.
He later played four years of high school basketball under Jack Lyons at West Scranton. The discipline, character, team work and responsibility he learned through that experience is evident in the manner he carries himself today.
He attended West Scranton Intermediate School for three years where he played basketball and baseball. He was the starting third baseman on Leo Ciullo’s first place baseball team, a very talented group who he developed life long friendships.
He played Teener League baseball, American Legion Baseball and Babe Ruth baseball. Playing primarily shortstop and pitcher, he was a leader on those teams.
He was athletic with great speed and had a penchant for hitting line drives in the gap, stealing bases and making the diving stop or catch in the field. And he could pitch with the best of them.
He played fall baseball for 13 years and especially enjoyed playing under Tom Lynch in North Scranton. His final two years of fall ball were under his dad at West Scranton’s Battaglia Field.
His West Scranton Babe Ruth team coached by Tony Cimino went all the way to the state championship in Mansfield. Great memories were created that will last a lifetime.
During his growing up years and even now, bus trips to Yankee Stadium with Cookie’s Travelers or JZ Tours with his dad and little brother Ryan were common throughout the summer. And every single year from the time he was five through this date he looks forward to attending the induction ceremony at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
He went on to graduate from West Scranton High School where he was Vice President of his junior and senior class, president of SADD, the Prince of the Homecoming and voted by his class as “Mr. Congeniality.”
But something happened along the way with his true passion. After leading the Junior Varsity baseball team with a .446 batting average and finishing with a 13-game hitting streak as a starting pitcher and shortstop, he was not selected to the varsity baseball team as a junior or senior.
He transferred to Holy Cross in Dunmore In his third quarter as a junior. He made the varsity baseball team there, but was ruled ineligible by the PIAA when West Scranton would not sign the papers to allow him to play. He did practice with the team though.
Missing his friends at West Scranton, he transferred back to West as a senior and graduated in 2014 resuming his title as class Vice President.
But that one set back did not stop him from playing baseball and chasing his dream. He continued attending baseball camps, playing in summer leagues, coaching and eventually hooked up with the Dunmore Freedom League at Sherwood Park where he converted to center field. He is now in his fifth year playing for the Dunmore entry in the league.
Following graduation, he attended Marywood University as a Health Care Administration major. He worked hard and did make that baseball team where he played three years. He took a year off as a sophomore to coach baseball at Riverside High School under Sid Hallinan. He also worked as a baseball instructor at The Sandlot under Chris Davis.
While at Marywood, his passion for hoagies transferred from Subway to Hank’s Hoagies in Green Ridge. Tommy Owens, the owner/proprieter, had a hoagie ready for him every day.
And if you shop at Gerrity’s Supermarket in Keyser Oak you will see his friendly smile and personable character as he diligently works in the deli.
He is completing his internship in health care administration at Life Geisinger this summer. At the conclusion of the internship early next month, he will officially have his bachelor of science degree. in health care administration.
He is still playing in pickup basketball leagues and still plays baseball in the Dunmore Freedom League. He will never give up on his dream. And that is to continue playing the game he grew to love with great passion.
But more importantly, this baby born in the spring of 1996 has grown into a responsible, polite young man of great character and integrity at 22.
I can honestly say he has never given his mom or dad one single problem.
This one’s for you, my son. “Hold em!”
Congratulations, my son Dylan, on your well deserved college graduation.