Learning from an Olympian at St. A’s

St. Athanasius, Bensonhurst, always has a dedicated group of parents that assist with the parish’s sports program.

And a few years ago, a volunteer parent came forward to sign up his son for baseball and offer a helping hand like so many parents in the parish do each year. However, this gentleman has had quite the baseball past.

Anthony Massimino, who grew up attending both St. Athanasius parish and school, has played professional baseball all over the world, with his crowning achievement being representing Team Italy in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.

The journey to Greece started right in Brooklyn, as Massimino played his youth baseball for the league based out of Our Lady of Grace, Gravesend. He went on to star as a starting pitcher for Xavier H.S., Manhattan, before earning a scholarship to pitch at Long Island University, Brooklyn Campus.

While at LIU, Italian scouts watched him pitch on several occasions and were impressed with his pitching repertoire.

Impeccable Control


Massimino featured an 88-92 mph fastball as well as a changeup and slider – his strikeout pitch. Even more importantly, his control was impeccable.

Anthony Massimino (Photo by Jim Mancari)
Anthony Massimino (Photo by Jim Mancari)

After he finished playing for the Blackbirds following the 2001 spring season, he decided to sign a contract to play professional baseball in Italy for Parma, one of the most storied teams within the Italian league.

He pitched well that first season and then came back to the States to finish his degree at LIU the following year. And then he was right back in Italy for the next season.

Through it all, the Italian national team had begun the process of putting together its roster for the 2004 Olympic Games.

Massimino’s father, Lorenzo, was born in Naples, Italy, which allowed Anthony to qualify for dual citizenship and thus be on the Italian team’s radar for the Olympics.

Massimino received invites to play in friendly matches all over the globe representing Italy. In a performance that really put him on the map, he pitched 8 1/3 innings and picked up the victory against China in the 2002 University Games in Messina, Italy. The following year, he continued to impress on the global stage while pitching in a tournament in Cuba.

After spending 2002 with an Italian team based in Piacenza, Massimino was back with Parma for 2003 and 2004. But once the 2004 season began, his main focus became earning a spot on the Olympic roster.

About a month before the team left for Athens, Massimino was informed that he had made the team and was ecstatic for the opportunity to play on the world stage.

“At that point, I was already accustomed to playing in front of large crowds, but Athens was different,” Massimino said of the Olympic experience.

The Athens games marked the first time the Olympics were back in Greece since the first-ever modern Olympics in 1896. As a result, the excitement had been building for quite some time.

Italy was to square off against Japan in the first game in a brand new stadium built specifically for the Olympics. And just who would be the pitcher to toe the mound to ring in the baseball portion of the Olympics? Massimino, of course.

“The vibe was just a different feel than anything I ever was involved with,” he said. “It’s the grand stage. It was a great feeling being able to throw that jersey on and represent for your country.”

It was a bit of rocky start for Massimino, who lasted five innings and gave up five earned runs to a Japan lineup that featured future major leaguers Kosuke Fukudome, Kenji Jojima and Norihiro Nakamura.

He wound up making two relief appearances as well – one against The Netherlands and one against Australia. Italy finished the tournament 1-6, and Cuba went on to take home the gold medal that year.

Hung Up His Spikes


After the Olympics, Massimino finished up the regular season for Parma but then headed back to the States where he decided to hang up the baseball spikes. He worked as a manager for FedEx Ground for two years before settling in with his current position in field operations for National Grid in Brooklyn.

When his son, Anthony, was old enough to start playing ball, Massimino began helping with the St. Athanasius program. He volunteers to help coach at the parish’s weekly instructional youth clinics throughout the summer.

“It’s great to be able to have somebody that’s excelled at such a high level of baseball and still be able to come and give back to help the children … not only his own child but all the children in the organization,” said Joe Orlando, the St. Athanasius sports program director.

Massimino of course has the baseball knowledge to get extremely technical when it comes to teaching about the game. However, given that most of the kids are not even 6 years old yet, he keeps things very simple.

“At this point, I teach the kids simple mechanics, how to throw the ball, where their feet should be, just really try to break everything down in simple terms,” he said.

Looking back, Massimino credits the support he received from his father and mother, Marie, as a primary factor in his success on the baseball diamond. Both his parents were in attendance for the Olympic Games.

“I was extremely lucky to have parents that kept me motivated and allowed me to do what I loved to do,” he said. “I can literally count on two hands games that my father has missed and that includes overseas. He was always hopping on planes to come watch me play.”

Passing the Torch


So now the torch is being passed to Massimino’s son Anthony – though there will be plenty of time for competitive baseball in the future and now it’s all about having fun.

“I’m going to give him (Anthony) the opportunity to play,” Massimino said. “I’m going to give him the opportunity to learn how to love the game. But as long as he’s happy, I’m going to be behind him.”

And as little Anthony enjoys his time on the baseball field, Massimino’s 18-month-old daughter, Eva, is waiting in the wings to be the family’s next athletic prodigy.

Only God knows if playing in the Olympics is on the horizon for these two youngsters. But if that’s in the cards, they are blessed to have a father who has experience playing on the Olympic stage.

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