Saturday, May 16, basically screamed, “Baseball!” Temperatures were in the low 80s, and only a few happy clouds dotted the blue skies. Saint Mark’s baseball team was scheduled to be at Frawley Stadium that afternoon, wrapping up its regular season against rival Salesianum. The coronavirus pandemic, of course, claimed the spring sports season, so the stadium was empty.
“Today’s a perfect day for sports, and we’re not playing. That’s disappointing to everybody — the families, the players and the coaches,” said Matt Smith, the Spartans’ head coach.
So instead of playing, the Saint Mark’s baseball team hit the road to honor its three graduating seniors.
The coaches and players gathered at the school for a state police escort to the Maryland state line. A few miles into Maryland, the group stopped at the Elkton home of J.J. Psenicska, whose mother had asked him to watch the family’s new dog in the front yard. Soon, the caravan arrived, horns honking and music blaring from the back of one of the trucks.
Smith presented Psenicska’s mother with flowers before giving his player his Saint Mark’s jersey. Psenicska said he figured something was up, but the coaches, players and parents did a great job of keeping everything under wraps.
“I love it. It makes the seniors feel appreciated. I wish we had a season,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting anything like this at all.
The Psenicska family joined the parade of cars back to Delaware, where the state police met the group and escorted it to Nick Muzzi’s home in Newark. There, the scene was repeated, only with the addition of blaring police sirens.
“It’s awesome. I had no idea. We heard all these sirens, and I thought someone was getting pulled over. I saw all these cars pull up,” Muzzi said.
A few miles away in Pike Creek, it was Christian Panico’s turn, and this time a few neighbors ventured outside to see what the commotion was.
“All my friends are here. I didn’t expect it. I expected something. They were acting weird, but I didn’t expect all this,” Panico said.
Smith was happy to honor the three seniors, although he, like them, much rather would have been at an actual game. He was happy to see almost the entire team in the caravan.
“I’m pleased that they came out in support of the seniors,” Smith said.
The last game of a season is always a “happy/sad” affair, he continued. It’s a chance to celebrate the seniors, knowing that they will not be returning the next season. The caravan was an opportunity to bring some happiness into a season that ended after about 10 days of practice and one scrimmage on Saint Mark’s renovated field.
Shari Muzzi, Nick’s mother, knew the tribute was coming. She, like everyone else, would have preferred a more traditional senior day but was touched by the work that went into the tribute.
“I didn’t know it would be a whole car caravan. I thought maybe just the coaches and the state troopers. I didn’t think it would be the whole team. That’s so nice. It’s Spartan strong,” she said.
“It shows that they love one another. They love the school. They love being Spartans.”
Psenicska and Panico may have played their final game for Saint Mark’s, but they will be seeing plenty of each other over the next few years. Both are headed to the University of Alabama, where they will be roommates. Muzzi is going to the University of Delaware, but he said he could see himself making a few trips to Tuscaloosa to see his friends.
The trio has been keeping busy the same way a lot of high school seniors have during the shutdown. When not getting their schoolwork done, they have been playing video games and doing what they can to stay active. On Saturday, they played basketball in Panico’s driveway. Muzzi said he was schooling his father before his teammates arrived.
“Me and my dad were just playing home run derby with the Wiffle ball. I beat his butt,” he said.