IF THERE'S one topic Rick Reigner loves to discuss, it's the camaraderie displayed by Monsignor Bonner High's baseball team.
How the players all get along. How no one ever feels like an outsider. How they even gather en masse away from the field for assorted activities.
There's a pizza place not far from Bonner that can likely trace most of its recent profits to these guys. There's also a golf course where they meet to . . .
Screech! That's where Reigner applies the brakes, at least when the subject matter turns to his average score.
"Pretty high," he said, smiling. "I'd like to keep that a secret. I'm not really that good. I'm terrible."
OK, so Rick Reigner is not the next Tiger Woods (golf reference only). Last time we looked, long drives, accurate chip shots and perfect putts from afar are not required in baseball, and that's the sport in which Reigner stars.
The all-lefty senior plays centerfield, and yesterday he completed a very productive, three-game playoff run as Bonner stormed to its first Catholic League championship since 1989.
Under occasionally rainy skies at Widener University, with some brief hard stuff mixed in, Reigner (pronounced Wrig-ner) went 2-for-4 with two RBI as the Friars roasted Archbishop Ryan, 13-3, in five innings.
Although dates and times are to be determined, Bonner's opponent in the AAAA City Title will be the Public League champion, Central. The other City Title games: Archbishop Wood vs. Franklin Towne Charter in AAA; and Kennedy-Kenrick vs. Esperanza Charter in AA.
After the game ended on a comebacker to senior righthander Anthony DiGalbo, who pitched a six-hitter, the players formed a humanity pile right near the mound.
Already, the student spectators were lining up near the gate next to Bonner's dugout, on the third-base side, and initially an adult was holding them back. Then, he stepped aside and . . . there they go!
Everyone frolicked on the left side of the mound. They belted out the Olé song, crooned the alma mater, jumped up and down like crazy. Soon, the championship plaque was being presented and the players were posing for a group pic and one of them was cackling, "Hey, who's grabbing my [butt]?" Then they handed the plaque to George Nestor, the 6-year-old batboy and brother of pitcher Joe Nestor, and, after hoisting him, they serenaded him with "Happy Birthday."
It was a tremendous gesture, further enhancing this team's reputation for getting it.
"This team has great chemistry," Reigner said. "I knew after freshman year that we had something special here. No one didn't like each other. It was a matter of waiting for our turn to win the championship."
In playoff wins over Father Judge, Neumann-Goretti and the Raiders, which saw Bonner average 10.3 runs, Reigner stroked six hits in 10 at-bats while notching five apiece of RBI and runs scored.
Reigner's double down the leftfield line plated the last of Bonner's four, second-inning runs. He also contributed an RBI single to a nine-run third that featured 13 batters.
The first inning did not exactly foreshadow the four to follow. Ryan's first three batters scored. Bonner's went down in order.
"I guess we had to get the nerves out," Reigner said. "Once we started hitting the ball, we didn't stop. We got more and more confident."
With a two-run double to right-center, Josh VanHorn smacked the big hit in Bonner's second. Steve Markus drove in three runs in the third, with two coming on a single. Alex Liberatore made three plate appearances in those two frames and his contributions went like this: double to kick-start the second, walk and RBI single in the third.
For DiGalbo, the triumph in such an important game meant a lot. As he entered high school at West Catholic, his major sport was football and he hoped to become a prominent quarterback for that small-school powerhouse. By early in his sophomore year, with a special talent (Curtis Drake, now a wideout at Penn State) in front of him, he transferred to Bonner.
"How well things have worked out hit me right after that last out," DiGalbo said. "Everything happens for a reason. I guess this is the reason I came here."
Ryan scored its runs on RBI singles by Kevin Mack and losing pitcher Steve Markle that sandwiched an infield bobble.
When DiGalbo returned to the dugout after the inning, coach Joe DeBarberie yelled at him.
"Well, he didn't really yell at me," DiGalbo said, laughing. "He just said this in a loud voice: 'That's all they get!' Hearing that got me really pumped up. After that, I just threw the ball and trusted everybody to make the plays.
"I iced my arm last night. Iced it again this morning. Had bananas and other fruit for lunch. It was just a relaxing day."
Bonner committed no other errors. The last two hits, also singles, proved harmless. Though DiGalbo, who's bound for Delaware County Community College, finished with only one strikeout, here's guessing that didn't bother him.
All season, the prevailing thought among CL observers was that Archbishop Wood or Neumann-Goretti deserved the league's best-team tag.
"We always thought we were better," said Reigner, who's headed for Philadelphia University. "We talked about that a lot in school. We needed to get on Neumann early, and we did. We wanted to do that today, too. Didn't happen, but at least we got it going in the second inning."
Said DeBarberie: "These guys are good players and they know how to play. They've worked hard from the first day to today. Especially on the fundamentals. That's what has carried us through, even though we don't have the stud pitcher or the one-two great hitters. Every game, it seems, a different guy comes through for us."
So, does this kind of team provide more satisfaction than the star-studded variety?
"Yes, it does," he said. "From pinch-runners to courtesy runners to pinch-hitters to pitchers that hadn't worked in a while, like [winning reliever] Matt Dolan in the semis . . . I mean, we really have had help from everyone."