A Milford reunion made sweeter in Sugar Land

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Last Thursday’s venture to the Sugar Land Skeeters game was multidimensional for me.

If you haven’t already, you should check out this week’s sports-front feature story.

Not only was I able to tag along with one of my fearless leaders, who is a regular at Constellation Field, to get advice on how to capture photos of a similar caliber but I was able to aim the lens on a familiar face to me – Chris Colabello.

The familiarity stems back to our hometown of Milford, Mass., where not only did we play for the same teams growing up, we were both honored with the same team award that has been in some legendary hands in terms of the baseball history of that town.

At the high school level, both of us guided a team to the state playoff tournament to extend a streak that only ended just a few years ago after more than 35 years. On the American Legion stage, we both made a trip to the regional tournament although his was a little before mine, so he was able to give my team a few tips before we hit the road.

Colabello was a teammate of the manager of our team, Steve DiVitto, who also coached me when I first got to high school on the freshman team. At the time he was playing for the Toronto Blue Jays and was teammates with Sam Fuld, from Dover, N.H., and joked that as long as we got past their team we’d be in the clear.

We were able to accomplish that but were unable to punch a ticket to the World Series like they did, but we were most certainly the best team in the state that year and although I was not a heavy lifter that got that team there, that’s where I hang my hat.

That was my first year of legion and turned into probably the best summer of my life. The next year didn’t go as well on the field and I finished the year with five at-bats and that was the only time you’d hear me shut up. I was always the guy talking everyone up, keeping everyone in the game and mainly elevating the energy on a constant basis.

I’d like to think that without that consistency off the field, the product on the field wouldn’t have gotten quite as far and although that may be a stretch, my name was ultimately put on as one of many on the Robert Pagnini Awards given to the most valuable player on a Post 59 team where Colabello’s name was etched in right around the corner from mine.

That 2014 state championship team was eventually honored at Fenway Park alongside the high school and little league state champions, and a couple of friends and I caught up with Chris in the stands. That was the first conversation I had with Chris until one night I was editing one of Joe Southern’s stories and I noticed he mentioned Colabello and I had a minor freak out. I made sure to schedule a time to meet up with Chris while he’s wearing Skeeters colors.

Originally, Joe and I got to the field much earlier than normal because the interview was scheduled before the game. It got pushed until after the game, but nonetheless, time at the ballpark is never really wasted anyway.

I hung around until after the game to sit down with my paesano. I just made sure I was on the field at the game’s end and I had noticed everyone else vacate the dugout following the 8-2 loss except for one coach talking with a player on one end of the dugout, one player with his family above the dugout, and two players on the bench, one of them being Colabello.

The Skeeters spokesman Ryan Posner came back to introduce me, and Chris thanked him, although we had already gotten reacquainted before the first pitch.

From there it was like we had known each other for years and we talked about it all, most everything off the record, but it was really like we were the only two people in the world. Kids were pandering for autographs and we just kept talking.

All of a sudden, there was nobody else around the dugout, and the maintenance crews were making their way around the stands cleaning up what was left behind of the game.

Sprinklers came on to replenish the grass, a majority of the light towers were relieved of their duties for the night, and yet, we were just hanging out. Just a couple of Scarlet Hawks turned legion team MVP winners sharing a ballpark in Sugar Land, Texas.

It’s always great to see a familiar face when you’re out anywhere (see: the bump-in with band director Rolando Cantu at that same game which we turned into a live-video opportunity that you should check out on our Facebook) but for this familiar face to draw all the way back to Milford was a little extra special. I just think it will be a while before another interview with a professional athlete tops that one.

So thank you, Joe, for most importantly taking me, and thank you, Ryan, for extending a reunion which made for a few pretty great stories.

And of course, a big-time thanks to you too, Chris, for everything you taught me in the cages and in the seats at Fenway and in that dugout, from one MVP to another.

(This column is the personal opinion of Cole McNanna and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Sealy News, its staff, or its advertisers.)

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