For Pat Esposito, there are few thrills greater than watching his son Vinny play baseball. As a high school baseball coach, Pat had mentored Vinny on the diamond since he was young. But since arriving in Bethesda, it’s no longer his father who keeps an eye out for the Big Train’s All-Star second baseman.
“It’s great to see him go under other people’s wings and learn a lot about baseball and have opportunities to do this kind of stuff. It’s great; it’s awesome.”
This week, Pat and his family joined Vinny in Bethesda to watch the younger Esposito suit up for the Big Train. And in Thursday night’s contest against the Silver Spring-Takoma Thunderbolts Pat earned a front row seat, watching his son from the confines of the Bethesda dugout as an honorary assistant coach.
“I knew he was going to sneak his way onto the field somehow,” Vinny said. “He always does.”
Pat spent the afternoon with the team, meeting Vinny’s summer teammates and even got the thrill of throwing batting practice during pregame warm-ups.
“It was fun being in the dugout with [Vinny],” Pat said. “’Cause I don’t see him all summer and I just listen to him on the radio so to be out here today was more than fun. It made my whole vacation so far.”
As for the game itself, Pat watched his son lead the Big Train to an exhilarating 7-6 win over the Thunderbolts. Vinny finished the night 2-for-5 and played first base as manager Sal Colangelo shifted his fielders around after the Big Train solidified themselves as the number one seed in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League Playoffs on Tuesday night.
And though Vinny piled up a couple of hits and flashed his glove at first, it was his final at-bat Thursday night that he and his father will likely remember for a long time.
Following Colangelo’s ejection in the eighth inning for arguing a runner-interference call, the Big Train found themselves in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth when Vinny stepped to the plate as the frame’s leadoff batter.
After battling through an eight pitch at-bat, Vinny took a 3-2 fastball and blasted it into the night sky, over the high wall in left-center for a walk-off homerun. The swing sent his teammates and father into a frenzy as Vinny was greeted with a celebratory mosh-pit at home plate after rounding the bases.
“I was just trying to battle,” Vinny said. “Anything over the dish and he threw me a fastball and I got all of it.”
But for the Esposito’s, it wasn’t so much the enjoyment of the victory that stuck out, it was celebrating together, right there at home plate in the radiant glow of stadium lights at Shirley Povich Field.
“It’s a blast,” Pat said. “I enjoyed every minute of being in the dugout tonight.”