Maybe it's time to throw Joey Armata a couple of greenbacks. After all, he does more than catch for the resurgent baseball program at Ss. Neumann-Goretti High.
Look on the roster and you won't see Armata listed as one of coach Lou Spadaccini's assistants. But on days when sophomore lefthander Mark Donato is pitching, there's Armata behind the plate, calling every pitch before he catches every pitch.
"I've been playing on teams with Mark since I was 10 years old," said Armata, a 5-8, 195-pound junior. "I guess Louie is pretty comfortable with the fact we have a good relationship. He sees me as, well, I guess he sees me as a coach on the field."
The Donato-Armata combo worked quite effectively yesterday, thank you.
Donato, named Monday as the Blue MVP, spun a three-hitter as the Saints, in a playoff for the first time since 1997 (when the school was St. John Neumann), nipped visiting La Salle, 1-0, in a nail-biting Catholic League quarterfinal.
Losing pitcher Shawn O'Neill, a junior lefty, also allowed three hits. This was the eighth 1-0 game in CL playoff history, and the first since St. Joseph's Prep edged Archbishop Ryan in a 1999 semifinal.
Armata, aside from his handling of Donato, provided momentum in the visiting sixth by gunning down a would-be basestealer.
In the bottom half, Aggie Osano managed a bad-hop single and then yielded to pinch-runner Anthony Pfettcher. Donato lined out, Pfettcher reached second on a caught-stealing/dropped-throw combo and Armata was waved to first after the second pitch. Mike Riverso followed by lashing an RBI single to left-center.
"Lately I've been struggling at the plate, so I sure didn't expect that intentional walk," Armata said. "I was hoping for the chance to get the big hit. Then I loved seeing Mike get it."
Armata said Spadaccini never second-guesses his pitch selection, and that Donato shakes him only five-six times per game.
"It's usually when I call for his fastball, which I don't think anyone can hit, and he wants to go with his curve," Armata said. "That's cool with me. I'm always confident with Mark, whatever he's throwing, because he's one of the best."
Said Donato, a transfer from Roman Catholic: "He's the best catcher I have ever pitched to. He calls a great game and is a good player. I know that if I do allow baserunners, there is a good chance he'll throw them out if they try to run."
Of the win itself, he added: "It feels good to put our name on the map some."
Armata, who lives near 18th and Moyamensing, was a pitcher-third baseman in his earlier days. Arm miseries caused a switch to . . . wait, you need a good arm at catcher, too.
"First I had tendinitis and then a rotator-cuff burn toward the end of eighth grade," Armata said. "But I caught for [club team coach] Steve Koplove at age 14 and he liked how I handled myself behind the plate. I had a little bit of a dead-arm thing last summer, but I'm feeling OK now. I've had therapy." *