CARRYING three boxes of baseballs, as handed to him moments earlier by coach Tim Ginter, Ryan Mackiewicz was the first guy to set foot on the almost-all-turf field (lone exception: plate area) christened Wednesday by Father Judge High.
A shade more than 3 hours later, the 5-11, 185-pound junior catcher sent everyone home by blooping one of those balls into shallow leftfield for a walkoff single.
There you have it. Remember the name Ryan Mackiewicz. He's the answer to two prominent trivia questions.
Who was the first guy to walk onto the field? Who bagged the first game-winning RBI?
The fact that he did the latter, of course, also meant Mackiewicz was the first player to disappear under a pile of delirious teammates, maybe a third of the way around first toward second.
The final score in the Catholic Red contest, played right across from Judge in Ramp Playground, was 5-4 and the loser was Roman Catholic.
Judge needed a two-spot to snatch the win.
"I felt confident we had a [rally] in us in the seventh," Ginter said. "After watching our first six innings [one hit; a groundball single], I can't say I was expecting a couple of extra-base hits. But I felt we'd be able to put something together to get a run across, then it'd be see what happens from there.
"These kids really feed off each other. They're tight from top to bottom. We've gotten contributions this season from Man No. 12, Man No. 13 … It says a lot that they're ready to go."
At 2:10, way before the 3:40 start, Mackiewicz was one of three Judge players (with Mike O'Hanlon and Brandon Mau) to walk briskly across Solly Avenue, all kinds of excited.
Alas, Ginter didn't arrive until 2:40 and that was when he unlocked the gate.
Amazingly, though regular showers and some sprinkles had dominated the day, not a drop was seen/felt once everyone entered the premises.
"All day we were worried the game might be postponed," Mackiewicz said. "I did not want that. I was so antsy to get onto this field. We've been anxious ever since we first heard about it.
"This field is beautiful. I've never seen anything like it. And it's going to be here for years to come."
The game was witnessed by maybe 75 spectators, counting those who made only pit-stop appearances. There was no pomp, no circumstance. That will change Saturday at 2 o'clock when the Crusaders do things up right while hosting Bishop McDevitt in a nonleague game.
The very first pitch, from Josh Teson to William Dougherty, was thumped down the rightfield line for a double. Roman failed to score, though, and the first run (of two in Judge's second) was scored by John Reyes on a wild pitch. Mackiewicz (walk, steal) scored shortly thereafter as Jeff Seigafuse sent a grounder through the left-side hole for the first RBI.
The leftfield line of the baseball field runs parallel to Solly. Though distance signs have not yet been posted, Ginter said it's 310 feet down the lines, 350 to the alleys and 380 to center. At the far end of the property, beyond right and right-center, is a new turf football field.
Ginter said the city, Councilwoman Joan Krajewski and the Friends of Father Judge joined forces to make the dream come true.
Final approval occurred last Friday and the Crusaders held practice Monday and Tuesday.
"The kids had been dying to get on the field since the first bulldozer hit the ground," said Ginter, a 1994 Judge grad and player under longtime coach Joe McDermott. "When they saw the turf get laid down, it was, 'When will we get on here? … When will we get on here?' To finally get on the field and win the game like this, the moment gets bigger than the game."
The winning rally was not without controversy.
As it began, Zack Spiker fouled off a bunt attempt and Roman's coaches were positive the ball bounced up against his body after he left the box. No dice. Spiker then doubled to left and, after Erik DeLone replaced Luke Coyle on the mound, was bunted to third by John Hearn.
O'Hanlon, a lefty swinger, stepped in and the ball hit his bat. The sound also indicated the ball had hit his hand. Roman's coaches yelled for the players to pick up the ball, which they argued later was still in fair territory, and tag O'Hanlon. DeLone did so, but the plate ump ordered O'Hanlon to return to the box.
O'Hanlon then hit a chopper to third baseman Tom Carroll. His throw to home was in the turf (remember, no dirt at the plate area), Spiker scored easily and Andrew Maenner was summoned to pinch-run for O'Hanlon. After Tim Ross struck out, Reyes smoked a double that pretty much matched Spiker's; Maenner was held at third.
Up stepped Mackiewicz, a veteran of last-pitch heroics and slated to play quarterback for the 2012 football squad, which will begin its season with a game in Ireland. He'd won the CL opener with a walkoff double against Monsignor Bonner.
"I was looking for my pitch and I wanted to put a good swing on it," he said. "It was a fastball right down the middle. I thought maybe I'd blooped it to the third baseman, but it turned out it got past him. To win the game like that, pretty exciting."
The win went to senior righthander Rob Walmsley, who pitched shutout ball over the last 2 1/3 innings and got things started by throwing out a runner at home.
For Roman, Nick Stoffere went 3-for-3 with two RBI, Dougherty went 2-for-3 with a walk and Matt Simon had an RBI single.
Through the mid-'70s, the Crusaders played on the very same piece of real estate this field now occupies, and it was laid out the same as well. It then moved to a field at nearby Pollock Playground (also now known as McArdle), and, well, let's just say that place was nevvv-er considered as a possible site for Field of Dreams.
With that in mind …
When asked how he liked standing on turf to hit, Ryan Mackiewicz smiled and said, "I liked it a lot. Better than a gully at Pollock." n