For the 30th consecutive year, a group of North End boys, ages 13 to 15, traveled to the western part of the state to North Adams, Mass. to play baseball.
It all started in 1989 by a group of men from the North End and North Adams trying to find a way to connect the smallest and largest cities in the Commonwealth. Two of the men worked for then-Secretary of Transportation Fred Salvucci, Mr. Joseph Sgarano of the North End and Toni Abusi of North Adams. Co-workers of sorts, they got a group of people together to help out the small city of North Adams to put together a street festival, similar to our feasts in the North End. Once they had discussed that item, they decided to work something out to have the youth of both cities collaborate on something fun.
In June of 1989, we trekked out to the western part of the state to play baseball in the mountains. We had no idea what to expect. It seemed whenever a group of young men from the neighborhood traveled out of town to play, we lost and usually lost badly. Well, way before we even got to North Adams we were all winners before a ball was even thrown. John Fiumara and Joe Sgarano, both of the Ausonia Council Knights of Columbus in the North End, headed west before us and had been interviewed on local radio. The local nine were escorted through the street festival like visiting dignitaries. Manager Carl Ameno and GM John Romano could have easily been Terry Francona and Theo Ebstein, it was a sight to be seen.
When it was all over, somehow the North End boys managed to win the game. After the game we did what all good Italians do, we ate together and celebrated a friendship that started that night and has lasted 30 years! As luck would have it, we were unable to reciprocate and have the North Adams team back to the North End that year, it was too short notice. The North End Knights were playing in two or three leagues and there just wasn’t a good time or place to accommodate another game.
With a whole year to plan, the next year officially started the LaFesta Baseball Exchange between sister cities from opposite ends of the state. This past weekend we traveled out west for the 29th Exchange but thirtieth trip. This weekend was not so good on the scoreboard for the local boys, but the fun, sportsmanship, friendship and the legacy of the Exchange was all that mattered!
With the team made up of many 13-year-olds, they put up a great fight but eventually lost both games to the older and more experienced North Adams Allstars. These young men set the stage for future series with their grit, spirit, and determination.
We wish to thank the Canales Family: George and his wife Nancy, their sons Michael, David, Jason along with their wives Kate, Dawn, and Jill along with Toni Abusi, John Lipa and a whole host of others whose hospitality was second to none this weekend! Hats off to Kevin H. and George the Umpire who has volunteered for all 29 years, as well as North Adams Coach Tito. Thank you also goes out to North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard, who threw out the first pitch of Saturday night’s game. A tip of the hat also goes to North End Coaches Joseph Bova and Ralph Martignetti.
The team, the Canales family and several others from North Adams will be traveling down to the North End as part of North End Against Drugs’ Annual North End Family Fun Festival on Saturday, August 3rd and Sunday, August 4th. Due to the construction at Puopolo Park, the games will be played as follows: Saturday at 5pm at Memorial Stadium in East Boston and Sunday at 10am at Ryan Park in Charlestown. Stop by and see the longest-running baseball exchange this side of the Mississippi for this age group, you won’t be disappointed!