Out on Long Island, in the town of Amaganset a boy of 11 has been watching the Mets as long as he can remember. In this season of their resurgence, he has seen more exciting plays than in all the last few years put together. But if you were to ask Dante Sasso to consider the most exciting Mets half-inning he can name, he’ll tell you it was last night’s bottom of the third-because he called it on TV!
I’ve had the delight of giving moments like this to children on a much smaller scale when I was a minor league broadcaster. Two of them were blind, as I am-Serena Cuco, age 10 did an interview on one of our broadcasts in 1994. Tim Vernon, starting at age 10 would make one or two appearances a season on our broadcasts in New Britain, CT. We would have him announce the starting line-ups, do an interview if one could be found and offer some commentary. Finally Grant Tunkel, who now works for MLB in New York did some broadcasts with us in his teens before going west to broadcast all sports at USC.
Sunday the Little League players took the spotlight as their World Series ended. Last night, Dante Sasso took the reins with Mets’ broadcasters Gary Cohen, Ron Darling and Keith Hernandez for the last of the third inning. How did he get there? Sasso won a contest. Step 1 was to write an essay to convince a kid who had never watched baseball before to start watching it. While that essay was not readily available, it’s one I’d like to show my sisters who are not baseball fans. The next part was a much tougher challenge. As one of the top 10, he had to read his essay aloud to a board of judges at the SportsNet New York Studios. That done, he had to call two plays as they were screened on a monitor in front of him. As fate would have it, he had seen the game in question and knew the plays he was seeing. Then came the moment of truth. Keith Hernandez emerged from the wings and proclaimed Dante the winner. For a rare moment in the life of any announcer of any age, he was speechless. Dante Sasso, the son of a seafood market owner would have a moment to remember such as few kids can claim.
Fast forward to last night. If Dante is anything like me, the days crawled by until D-Day, H-Hour which was last night’s bottom of the third. While the Mets didn’t score, he was luckier than many guests who witness a quick 1-2-3 inning on 4 or 5 pitches. Phillies’ starter Jerad Eickhoff yielded a single to Mets outfielder Michael Conforto. At first, dealing with understandable nerves Dante froze, then began to speak very fast. As the inning wore on it seemed he felt more comfortable on the big stage. The next batter Wilmer Flores grounded to first. While he was up Dante mentioned the heroics of the last month by Flores who nearly got a one-way trip to Milwaukee at the trading deadline. Dante referred to the next batter Bartolo Colon as a “Heavy hitter,” which could have been a joke about his few hits this season or a joke at his more than ample bulk. Colon was the victim of a swinging strikeout. Curtis Granderson was next. During his audition Dante had suggested that, given his chance he would move Juan Lagares to the top of the order instead of Granderson. The leadoff man walked. That left it to Yoenis Cespedes, the big bat the Mets so badly needed and at long last acquired on July 31. He went down on strikes, ending the most special night of Dante Sasso’s young life.
So, what is Dante’s encore? He doesn’t foresee a player’s life, which pleases his mother Charlotte to no end. In spite of his obvious talent he didn’t say he wanted to follow Darling and Company in the broadcast booth above Citi Field. No, this son of a small business owner wants to be a general manager one day. He joked he would then name himself manager “To make it a cohesive unit.” This kid’s 11 years old. He has the drive now. Give him the education, help him stay focused (which is a battle for all children once they become teens,) and to steal from Chris Berman “HE_ Could_ Go_ All_ the_ Way!”0