Getting a Greg up

Recent Roman Catholic High School graduate Greg Grandelli drew a walk and plated a run in his two times at bat.

Photo by Tina Garceau

Greg Grandelli has always believed there are bountiful benefits to playing baseball, with the ability to bond with similarly ambitious figures among the biggest. On Tuesday morning, the 18-year-old joined such dedicated individuals at the Urban Youth Academy, 20th Street and Pattison Avenue, as a member of the Catholic League’s Carpenter Cup club.

“It’s a great honor to play and a great feeling to do so with guys who are usually my opponents,” the resident of the 200 block of Ritner Street said after the parochial unit’s 4-3 opening-round victory over Burlington County in the Philadelphia Phillies-sponsored showcase tournament. “To get a win is pretty exciting, too.”

The Whitman inhabitant earned an opportunity to try out for the all-star pageant by scoring first-team All-Catholic honors as a second baseman and pitcher for Roman Catholic High School, from which he graduated last Friday. One of five Cahillites to earn placement on the roster of manager Joe DeBarberie, of Drexel Hill’s Bonner-Prendergast, Grandelli took to the year-old field for the nine o’clock start with utter appreciation for the addition to his baseball résumé.

“I messed around with other sports to have fun, but this is what stood out to me,” the young man said of his eight-year infatuation with our national pastime. “I know about and respect many of the guys who’ve played in the Carpenter Cup, so it’s a thrill to have a chance to get to be a part of a great experience.”

Beautiful weather and a dedicated fanbase greeted the Catholic leaguers in starting their involvement in a competition that draws plenty of scouts. The 16-team gathering has customarily started play in Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park, with semifinal and championship tilt action occurring at Citizens Bank Park, 1 Citizens Bank Way. Organizers dubbed the Catholic League the home team, with their inaugural fielding efforts earning Grandelli placement in the showcase’s annals.

“That was just incredible,” the teenager, installed as his gang’s shortstop, said of catching the second out and tossing to first for the final element of a triple play, only the second in the three-decade-long history of the tournament, which draws participants from Eastern Pennsylvania, South and Central New Jersey, and Delaware. “I think that gave us some momentum because it can be hard to play against a team with guys you don’t really know much about.”

Grandelli picked up an assist and snagged a pop fly in the second to continue his defensive displays and headed to the dish in the bottom of the frame for his initial at-bat. He walked on a full count and advanced to second on a throwing error but advanced no farther. Nevertheless, he expected to have another chance to cause damage, as Carpenter Cup games go a full nine innings instead of the seven that high school action permits.

“Catholic League play is always about being ready for your next at-bat because you want to show that you’re dedicated to each swing,” Grandelli said. “That’s something I love about being a baseball player, too; you can make things happen pretty fast.”

The eager contributor began to find himself beckoned to the diamond at 10, with the Delaware Valley Youth Athletic Association, 2840 S. 18th St., as the source of his fixation. Thanks to travel ball opportunities with the Philadelphia Senators, he built his confidence to the point where he relished playing against tough competition and chose to matriculate at St. Joseph’s Preparatory School for his freshman and sophomore years.

“I like to play my part,” Grandelli said of never placing too much pressure on himself when playing baseball, which he did for the Hawks. “I enjoy being around guys who want to make strides as a group, and when I decided to transfer from The Prep, Roman sounded like a great place to find those people.”

The local joined the Center City-based squad shortly after it dropped the Catholic League final to Ss. Neumann-Goretti High School, 1736 S. 10th St., which this year claimed another championship plaque, defeating The Prep 3-2 May 28.

“I’d say we’re a scrappy team,” Grandelli observed of the Purple and Gold. “There’s really no one player to focus all of your attention on because we play as a whole, and I think that’s what made us have a nice year.”

The Cahillites registered an 8-4 mark in league play, including a 2-0 triumph over Neumann-Goretti May 5. The Saints, however, scored revenge in a playoff quarterfinal, winning 2-1 on the way to their fifth title in eight seasons. The East Passyunk Crossing school also had five players on the roster, but none played, electing not to risk injury ahead of today’s state championship duel versus Bishop McCort.

While Grandelli could not celebrate a league title this year, he gained a ton of applause in the third inning, making a terrific play to his left to throw out a speedy Garden State player. In the home fourth, he stepped to the plate with two on and nobody out and delivered a run-scoring grounder. The Catholic League added another score in the frame and one in the eighth, by which time he had left the lineup. The visitors tallied twice in the ninth, but a pop up with a man on third ended the threat and will give the hosts a chance to play for a semifinal spot at 10:30 Friday against Delaware South on the adjacent Richie Ashburn Field.

“It was great to have the support today,” Grandelli said after receiving congratulations. “I hope we’re able to keep going.”

Headed for Immaculata University in the fall, the ardent adolescent, torn between journalism and sports management, will experience no such athletic angst this summer, as he plans to play for the Philly Blue Sox.

“I want to keep sharp because I love this game,” the future Mighty Mac said. “It brings out the best in me as an athlete and helps me to grow as a person, too.” SPR

Contact Editor Joseph Myers at or ext. 124.