By Rob Potter
LOCH SHELDRAKE June 27, 2006 Joe Bonnaci of Smallwood is looking forward to playing college baseball close to home.
In a ceremony last Wednesday afternoon at the Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) admissions office, the 18-year-old Bonnaci signed a national letter of intent to attend SCCC this fall and play for the Generals baseball team.
As Coach Mike Marra and other SCCC officials looked on, Bonnaci signed the letter and then tried on a number 24 Sullivan Generals baseball jersey.
The signing ceremony was the first of two special events which Bonnaci attended within a five-day span at the Loch Sheldrake campus. On Sunday afternoon, he joined his Monticello Central School classmates for their commencement exercises in SCCCs Paul Gerry Fieldhouse.
Marra was very pleased that Bonnaci decided to continue his academic and athletic career at SCCC.
Joe is a great student and a great athlete, Marra said. He had a 3.4 gpa this school year. He played the positions of pitcher and first base this season for the Monticello Panthers. He had a great season with a .404 batting average and a .569 slugging percentage.
Marra noted that having another local player on the Generals roster is very important.
With Joe signing today, we have nine Sullivan County baseball players who will be on our team next spring, the coach stated. With 18 to 20 players on the roster, that means about 50 percent of our team will be Sullivan County kids. Im very excited about that; its very important to have local players on our team.
Bonnaci, who is the son of Robby and Kelly Bonnaci, is no stranger to the SCCC campus. Since he finished many of his Monticello High School requirements early, he took 10 courses at SCCC during the 2005-2006 academic year through the colleges early admissions program.
Being at Sullivan the past two semesters made Bonnacis decision on where to play college baseball much easier.
Ive been here taking classes my senior year and this is close to home, Bonnaci said.
Bonnaci, who went 1-1 on the mound for the Panthers during the 2006 season, said he and Marra have already talked about next season and what positions the freshman will play. Both agreed that Bonnaci will help the Generals as a pitcher and first baseman.
This summer, Bonnaci is playing for the Smallwood/Mongaup Valley Fire Department team in the Eastern Sullivan Firefighters Softball League. Robby and Joe Bonnaci are both members of the Smallwood/Mongaup Valley Fire Department and this is the third year that Joe has competed for the departments softball team.
Bonnaci is looking forward to joining fellow Sullivan County baseball players Chris Gates, who graduated from Fallsburg Central School on Sunday, Mike Prunka, who graduated from Eldred Central School on Saturday, and Mike Cook and Casey Pazzalia, both of whom graduated from Liberty Central School on Saturday, on the collegiate diamond.
That should be fun, he said. I played against those guys and now well be teammates.
So is there anything in particular that Bonnaci is most looking forward to about being a Sullivan Generals baseball player?
Just playing, he said with a smile.