Carpenter Cup full of pride

ANDREW THAYER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Delaware County assistant coach Sonny DiMartini smiles after rounding the bases after his team's win over the Public League team.
ANDREW THAYER / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Delaware County assistant coach Sonny DiMartini smiles after rounding the bases after his team's win over the Public League team.
Posted: June 17, 2014

WHEN THE leather mitts stopped popping and the aluminum bats finished clanging balls past infielders, another game began.

Sonny DiMartini, a teenager with Down syndrome who served as an assistant coach for Delaware County's Carpenter Cup Team, was staring down the bright, white, first-base lines at Ashburn Field at FDR Park.

He adjusted his glasses before careening around the bases, and then reached home plate after lowering his shoulder into the catcher. Not one fan, scout or coach in attendance was seated, and every player - even the Public League team that lost, 9-3, to Delaware County yesterday - couldn't help but marvel at one kid's excitement.

To Public League head coach Juan Namnun, Sonny provided another reminder of how baseball can change young kids' lives.

"That's a part of growth, it's human growth," said Namnun as he dusted his sunglasses with his navy Public League jersey. "It has nothing to do with baseball, you just have to be a human and have to understand that young man just had a thrill of a lifetime and that was a major win and I'm glad we were a part of that."

The 29th annual Carpenter's Cup showcases the top high school baseball players in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware and is named after former Phillies' owners Bob and Ruly Carpenter.

Though the Cup features big local talent, Philadelphia Public League baseball has struggled since the event's inception. The Public League is 1-29 all-time in Cup play and in 26 years they've only hit two home runs.

But Namnun said the Pub's struggles aren't due to a lack of talent, but rather, evidence of economic issues.

"Unfortunately we have a stigma that we aren't up to par with other leagues," Namnun said. "There are a lot of issues. Economically, our kids don't have the same opportunities to play on secondary and third teams that other leagues could and that's always tough on our kids at the end of the day. They may not have the funds to play on those elite travel teams. That's where the trickle-down comes from."

While the kids may not have the same competitive edge as others outside of the Pub, they still have baseball. And for Namnun, that's the most important thing to remember.

He said if the seniors who graduate continue to return and volunteer at public schools, then the league potentially could begin a turnaround. But it starts with the younger players watching their teammates get an education while playing sports they love. Just like Sonny DiMartini running the bases with indescribable passion.

"It doesn't matter what division or if it's a junior college, if you have an opportunity to get an education because of baseball, that's a major win," Namnun said. "It doesn't matter where or when. If your goal is to go professional one day you can keep fighting. But more importantly than that, academics and education can never be taken away."


On Twitter: @TylerRickyTynes

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