There tends to be some confusion at Lawrence Post 414 baseball games. When No. 13 is on the mound, or pinch-running, or coming to the plate, the dugout is alive with chatter.
“C’mon Frank! Let’s go Frankie! Get ‘em Frank!”
A glance at the lineup card hanging on the wall, however, insists that Colin D’Angelo is sporting that unlucky jersey number. So who is this Frank character?
Well, they are both one in the same and the story has become the stuff of legend as to how the name came about. Although it’s not too certain which legend is true.
Several years ago, D’Angelo was at the home of one of his teammates and, well, here is the story according to Post 414 manager Jason Zegarski.
“One of the kids’ dads couldn’t remember his name and called him Frank,” Zegarski said. “They just started calling him Frank and it stuck ever since. He’s always been Frank. I still call him Colin because I’ve known him forever but he’ll always be Frank to everyone else.”
Ah, but did the father really forget his name? That is the question still unanswered.
“He started joking around with us and was calling me Frank and it started catching on,” D’Angelo said. “I’m pretty sure he knew my name. . . but I’m not 100 percent certain.”
What is 100 percent certain, is that D’Angelo has been a key contributor to Post 414 this season, with his arm, his bat and his legs. He played three years of varsity for Lawrence High School and is in his third year on legion. While his stats might not be league-leading, his versatility is a value to any team.
“He’ll do anything you ask of him —pitch, third base, outfield, pinch run, he’ll do it,” Zegarski said. “For us he’s mostly a pitcher but he can hit anywhere we need him in the lineup. He’s not hitting for a great average but he’s still had a couple big hits. If we need him in a big spot he’ll come up big.”
As time has gone on, however, D’Angelo feels his home is on the mound.
“I think I’ve progressed more toward pitching this year and more toward utility guy second,” he said. “I like pitching the most. I like controlling the game.”
During his varsity career, D’Angelo went a modest 4-3 with a 4.2 ERA. This past season he was unhappy with how he threw in finishing with a 2-2 record. The effort improved once the summer season started
“I’m definitely progressing towards where I want to be at,” he said at mid-season. “I just have to go out there and pitch my game. Not listen to other people but just go throw my game. During high school there were just different people saying different stuff and I wasn’t really focused on myself.”
During legion season, however, things have taken an upturn. D’Angelo debuted this season by throwing a one-hitter against Hightstown in which the only hit was an infield version that shortstop Rob Buecker nearly made an incredible play on.
“He’s always thrown well for us,” Zegarski said. “Last year he threw a great game against (Post) 31 for us, he had the game against Hightstown this year. And when we need him somewhere else, he’ll go there.”
D’Angelo won his first two starts this season and also pitched well in relief, forging an ERA under 3.0 entering the regular season’s final week.
“He likes to use the good three-pitch mix,” Zegarski said. “He’s got a nice fastball, a nice little off-speed and then he comes with the change-up. If you can command with your fastball and you have the good three-pitch mix, you’re gonna be a good pitcher in this league.”
D’Angelo’s efforts had Lawrence closing in on a spot in the district playoffs as Post 414 was 13-9 and in fifth place with two regular-season games remaining (at least the top six got in). D’Angelo was being asked to step up even more after Lawrence lost its two top pitchers. Buecker and Ryan Castoral both had to report early to their respective colleges, leaving “Frankie” with an even greater role.
“I like it,” he said. “It’s definitely different but you just gotta take it game by game and see where it goes.”
“With those guys gone he’s become one of our top-end starters,” said Zegarski, who also serves as an assistant on the Cardinals varsity team. “Sometimes he didn’t really have it early in the high school season. When you’re a pitcher trying to throw in March and April it’s tough. It’s cold, and you can’t really get a good grip on everything. But it heats up here in the summer and you can see what he’s got and we need it.”
Zegarski and D’Angelo share a relationship dating back to early in the decade when D’Angelo would attend the Lawrence Recreation Department’s summer camp. He would go on to play Lawrence Little League, Babe Ruth and travel ball, but from the start he noticed something about Zegarski.
“He was definitely a leader back then, I always looked up to him,” D’Angelo said. “I was in that camp for three years so I’ve known Zig for a long time. He’s just been that guy that’s been there for me. He’s really helped me out and we just have that bond.”
And while D’Angelo was admiring Zegarski’s presence, the coach was impressed with the player’s talent.
“At seven, eight years old it was the same thing with him, he was full of energy,” Zegarski said. “You knew he was an athlete, just from the games we played and the way you’d see him out there running around.”
Zegarski is unsure of his baseball future. He will attend Rowan and major in law enforcement, but says it’s “Up in the air” whether or not he will play baseball.” His plans are to be a police officer as he follows in the footsteps of his father—another first responder.
“My dad was a fire fighter,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do something in that aspect.”
He is also an avid street hockey player, but as the second half of July rolled around, his main focus was on Lawrence making a playoff run.
“We’ve shown signs, and then we take a step back,” he said. “But we can definitely play. Hopefully we get going at the right time.”
And D’Angelo was hoping to play his part, even if it was under the guise of Frank.