It's a fitting ending for father and son
This is the story of Bill Buscetto. And Bill Buscetto. Father and son. Son and father. They are almost a Billy Joel lyric: Quick with a joke ... with a good hitting stroke ... but is there some place they'd rather be?
Take, for instance, one afternoon last week. Bill and Bill were in their home hamlet of Old Lyme, at the high school. Bill the son, a senior, was at baseball practice. Bill the father, the athletic director, was watching a tennis match.
No doubt this is where many of Bill Sr.'s friends will have a laugh at his expense. They often ask him about how the squash and water polo teams are doing at his new digs.
It wasn't going to be like this. Father and son used to be at St. Bernard. Bill Sr., the athletic director and baseball coach, was building a state-level baseball program, despite the school's modest enrollment. Bill Jr. was a freshman, a centerpiece, with several other young players. By the time they're seniors? They'd be back to despising St. Bernard again around here.
And then before you could reel off one decent Hail Mary, the Buscettos became past tense at the school they loved. Bill Sr. was embroiled in a personality conflict with a superior. He was dismissed, despite the protests of community members and a chunk of the student body, who identified Buscetto as a failing school's pied piper.
Now it is three years later. Bill Jr. is about to graduate from Old Lyme. He's signed and sealed to play baseball at Keene State. Happier than ever.
"Old Lyme is awesome," Bill Jr. said. "We've got a great group here. Last year, we had a great run (to the state semifinals). Every year we've been here, we've beaten St. Bernard. We haven't faced them this year yet. But if we did, we'd win."
Now that's a Buscetto.
"He brings a competitiveness about him. Every day," Old Lyme coach Randy St. Germain said. "He's not afraid of anything. This year, he's crushing the ball, way over .400. He's been a machine."
Not that Buscetto Jr. doesn't think of the past. It's hard not to. Imagine if the band stayed together.
"It was awful leaving Petey (Aldrich), Izzy (Davila), Willie (Rios), John Rainey ... from seventh and eighth grade, we all played on the same AAU team, we all went to school together," Buscetto Jr. said. "It was all leading up. Our starting lineup (freshman year) was all freshmen and sophomores. We knew we'd be good. That team went to ECC finals."
Then he paused and said, "but I guess what I've learned is that we all move on."
Bill Jr. has moved on with one of the great sports educations ever, most notably a friendship with John McDonald, East Lyme's favorite son, who turned a prayer into a now 15-year major league career.
"First, my dad is the one who has helped me the most," he said. "But defensively (as a shortstop) I build my game off Johnny. I remember when I was eight years old at the Stonington COMO doing defensive stuff. I remember in Little League, I was the only one working on footwork because of what Johnny taught me."
McDonald and Bill Sr. have been great friends for many years. Same with J.J. Koning, Mike Susi, Scott Tonucci and Isaak Lazarou. They've all been the kid's teachers. They've taught him baseball and needling, not necessarily in that order.
"You never know what you're going to get with Billy," St. Germain said.
Like the night they were all hanging together and a texting war began. They were ganging up on Johnny Mac.
"They were telling him he couldn't hit for (beans)," Bill Jr. said. "So all of a sudden, Johnny texts a photo of his World Series ring and goes, 'Oh, sorry. Do you have one of these?'"
The kid got into it later, telling McDonald that out of everyone in the thread who wore the No. 16 at some point - McDonald, Lazarou, Susi - that "I had the best hands for sure."
McDonald, for the record, texted the crowd in the wee hours that morning after the Angels game was through, reporting he went "2-for-3."
You get the idea that if it's not baseball, Bill Jr. will be in the people business one of these days.
He's been taught well.
Now there's the matter of the Class S tournament. The Wildcats are in.
"In June," he said, "it's about who has (guts)."
Of course, he didn't quite say "guts." But then, he's a Buscetto.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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